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REMEMBERING SION 




REMEMBERING SION 

A Chronicle of Storm and Quiet 


hy 

DESMOND 

RYAN 


0 / Ireland^ the Dalcassians^ of hopes^ 
conspiracies^ of Arthur Griffith now. In 
gay Paree he hides^ Bgan of Paris, unsought 
hy any save hy me , . . Weak wasting hand 
on mine. They have forgotten Kevin Egan, 
not he them. Remembering thee, O SionI* 

Jamfs JoycEj Ulysses. 


LONDON 

ARTHUR BARKER, LIMITED 

GARRirF STREET 




piihliJxcd , , . 1934 


PRlKTKn IN C1RE/1.T UttlTA.lN UY THE I'DINUyaGH PRESS, KDINUVJKGK 



TO SALLY 




ONE 

A cross the seas in the spring of 1906 from the 
lights and accents of London, nearly thirteen years 
old, past the Queen of Cities, Dublin, to the lonely 
emerald spaces of County Meath, within six miles of 
Tara of the Kings, then it was that I first caught a glimpse 
of Liffeyside in passing. She was an El Dorado beckoning 
with the fabled Boyne in a fairy mist beyond her and 
those grazing spaces towards which we were bound, a 
far-off capital of dreams and heroes, a rare city my 
fancy had often mirrored as I watched the stars over a 
hawthorn-fringed hill sweeping down to Dulwich, where 
a blind man sat by day and horse-buses braked heavily 
and hansoms with reins tightened and bells jingling spun 
slowly downward at night-time. With every throb of 
the great ship even as Holyhead became black and void 
in the winds and waves behind, the far-off dream grew 
nearer, the dream sharpened as in some magician’s 
crystal in the London shop-fronts, spelled out from 
books with old Celtic scroll designs and tales of Fionn 
and the Children of Lir, embellished by my uncle, 
Thomas Boyd, who knew Shakespeare by heart and 
read Gothic typed books in his study as he waited for 
Padraic O’Conaire, his friend, to come in with more 
wild tales. These two had sought romance, I gathered, 
sleeping beneath the moon in Epping Forest and talking 
of the caravan in which they proposed to travel Ireland, 
and writing poems of Cuchulainn and Deirdre and grim 
tales of the West while they planned the departure of 

9 



Remembering Sion 

the caravan, fated never to start. Then in her memory 
and accent which she had kept unspoiled for more than 
seventy years, my grandmother had told me of the 
Lifleyside and far Donegal and wave-washed Balbriggan. 
So deepened the vision of the Fairy City as the train 
rushed through the towns of England and Wales to that 
Holyhead already lost behind. Onward now across the 
sea to Dublin at dawn behind Howth and Dunleary in 
the noble half-circle of the Bay. For all the fever and 
freedom of foreign cities in our blood we Irish who 
dwell afar never forget that first sight of Ireland in the 
faint morning light with the Kish and Bailey flashing, 
the swoop of gulls, the lash of waters, stony quay and 
smoke ascending. Never can we have a greater moment 
but once again: when willy-nilly we turn back with the 
lighthouses flashing behind us bound fondly hoping for 
peace and freedom in all cities of the earth but one: 
the Dublin we dream of, a torch on the waters, a voice 
in every continent and on every ocean, an imperishable 
gem of many facets, some tarnished and dull, some 
a-flame and a-glittcr, some with all the quiet of starlight, 
capital of war and prayer and vision and vivid speech, 
dawns above old squares peaceful as a vanished century, 
green domes of bronze saluting across her cpiay-hemmecl 
river, city of talkers from dawn to dusk, a glittering 
chronicle of malice, piety and wit humming under all 
her roofs from Howth to Killiney, from Drumcondra 
to Rathfarnham, from North Wall to Kingsbridge. Her 
enemies say she is a backwater of failure, gossip 
and the day before yesterday, with a revolution and 
a Horse Show now and then, but what matter the 
enemies of Dublin.^ Much Dublin cares or ever 
cared, and this is both the greatest virtue and vice of 
Dublin. 

Spray and waves over the steamer’s side and a rush 



Remembering Sion 

of many passengers below. I linger alone looking over 
the railings at the waves beating time with the howling 
engines. On across the seas never yet sailed before 
except on a heeling paddle-boat down the Thames, 
remembering my grandfather had been a sailor and 
thinking this gave me immunity from all the tricks and 
jolts of Neptune, excited at this voyage to green fields 
and dreams and an ageless battle in which the Irish had 
always lost and fought again and lost and wandered to 
Spain and France and America thereafter, to a magic land 
built up of the sad tales my grandfather had told me of 
the corpses he had seen on the roadside as he went to 
school as a boy, giving his lunch to the starving people 
and escaping the famine fever which killed his own 
father, of the romantic tales I had read in Joyce’s Old 
Celtic Romances, and the wilder tales Padraic O’Conaire 
had scattered when he came in to see my uncle and all 
the swarms of legendary invaders in the beginnings of 
the world, half-god, half-human, the deeds of Fionn 
and Cuchulainn and princes floating away in crystal 
boats to the Land of Eternal Youth, and the Children of 
Lir waiting in the guise of swans for the coming of 
Patrick to that Meath I should see within another day, 
and the Bay, too, where Danish invaders foundered at 
last in fire and defeat after Brian’s victory and the steel- 
clad Normans blessed by an English Pope, the flames 
and waste of the Cromwellian and Elizabedian conquests 
down past William and James wrestling on the banks 
of that Boyne where I should live next week through 
the times of the United Irishmen with Grattan and Tone 
to the bloodless victory of O’Connell and the Itloodless 
overthrow of the Famine to the rise and fall of Parnell, 
all that endless ebb and flow of the Irish tale I had read 
in the history books. 

A wave fell upon the decks a yard away and there 



Rememhering Sion 

were distant lights on the waters and a cold wind swept 
round the ship. I walked round and round with no 
desire to go below and none other but to wait for the 
lights of Dublin in the early morning. Neptune was 
kind and T had never been on a ship before. Why 
sleep when two voices again spoke their tales in ray 
ear? There was my uncle with the two furrows in his 
brow which he said had been carved by deep thought 
ever since he had read Euclid for pleasure at the age of 
nine, a feat that increased my admiration for him, as T 
knew I shoidd never read Euclid for pleasure if I lived 
until I was nine hundred, my uncle in his study in 
London still reciting Shakespeare and reading his German 
poets and philosophers and writing a poem to his friend 
Batt Scanlan the fiddler over in San Francisco, or perhaps 
again denouncing that Bishop Butler as a driveller for 
saying that probability was the guide of life or the 
reverse, I know not which, but this answer to my question 
as to who the Bishop was when I had lifted a book from 
his table written by that divine had so completely im- 
pressed me with his worthlessness that until this hour 
I despise and abhor him, taking my uncle’s word on the 
rights and wrongs of the case. I thought of ray uncle 
and the whirling speeches he would make when roused, 
and the poems he wrote and the fierce words he used if 
interrupted, and the fire with which he recited his poems 
when Arthur Griffith published them in the United 
Irishman^ and what a magnificent booklet that yellow- 
covered booklet The Resurrection of Hungary was that 
Arthur Griffith had written to start off his new Sinn 
Fein policy, and how I had enjoyed his sarcasms about 
Hungarian village ruffians and agitators who refused to 
allow the Austrians to steal their lands and freedom from 
them and the Hungarians singing, what was it: 

The Magyar who forgets his land to grasp the blood- 



Remembering Sion 

stained Austrian hand. . . . Dear Chist Our Lord who 
loves us well . . . shall send his pagan soul to Hell. . . . 
As bad tongues as my uncle when roused, those Hun- 
garians. . • . Perhaps I should meet Artliur Griffith in 
Dublin some day and tell him how much I agreed with 
his book and his sarcasms and the new parable he was 
telling Ireland. . . . From a sight of the deep black 
title of the United Irishman and a memory of its notes 
and articles and a memory of my uncle handing me a 
copy of it with his poem of the man whose coffin had 
been stolen by fairies, another memory of my uncle and 
his bad tongue came to me over the waves. A boy at 
school had taunted me to boredom with the ancient tale 
of how the Irish always kept pigs in their parlours, and 
my uncle had smiled grimly when I mentioned this, 
ordering me forthwith to cap the ancient legend with 
this question: “ Where is England? ” Most aggressively 
to ask this question, and to answer peeling off my coat 
for battle : “ England, parrot and moon-calf, is within 
a perch’s breadth of Hell’s door where they can smell 
the breath of all the other devils! ” But the boy was so 
shocked that he drew away from me, thinking I was 
mad. From my uncle my thoughts passed to history 
again, for there was an aged but. exuberant Irishman 
whose lectures on history to patriotic clubs my uncle 
delighted to attend, gladly listening to the booming 
artillery of his friend’s voice ever louder and louder 
with face more and more crimson with wrath as the 
historian stayed for half an hour in tlie breach with 
Sarsfield at Limerick, and chased King William’s troops 
back from the beleaguered city widi clenched fists and 
showers of thunderous adjectives. Not only in Limerick 
of past times were this historian’s battles fought. To 
my uncle’s delight, Old Mac had pursued an English 
convert to Catholicism, or rather in the final stages of 

13 



Remember ing Sion 

instruction to conversion, past a horrified cordon of 
monks down three London streets for daring to sing 
a song about Pat and pigs and whisky at the local 
bazaar, and the terrified offender, so my uncle said, 
never stopped running and never returned to be baptized 
by the monks. 

The pallid face and half-smile and opaque eyes of 
Padraic O’Conaire rose from the waves as the boat 
groaned and heaved. . . . Strolling in with his black 
hat on the back of his head to brighten the room with 
rambling picturesque tales of slums he had visited and 
quaint pets he kept to the horror of Civil Service chiefs 
and London landladies: snakes and monkeys. ... A 
bleak wind from the West came suddenly from his 
mouth and phrases limning hunger and despair. . . . 
Connemara of the bogs and lakes. ... Or some desolate 
lodging-house where he had met outcasts and the man 
who went out in rags in the morning without a penny 
in his pockets, returning with dress-suits and opera-hats 
or another of those little gold ornaments the sky rained 
on his poverty whenever he went abroad. . . . Won- 
derful, said Padraic with his half-smile, how that mtin 
always found those little gold ornaments . . . and purse 
and watches and wallets. 

Padraic O’Conaire’s half - smile deepened as he 
warmed to his stories, wilder and wilder in their fantasy 
and grimness, Irish rolling from his lips, the Irish of 
Connemara. ... He and my uncle often talked away 
in Irish as they had talked in the London tram one 
day, the conductor protesting: “Better language, 
gentlemen ! ” Always a fund of stories from Padraic 
O'Conaire. My uncle told us that he was a genius and 
had a whole box of stories in his room at home, but cared 
nothing for them and would never publish them for he 
had written them all in English until the Gaelic League 

14 



Remembering Sion 

ideal had gripped him and he turned back to his first 
language and taken a vow never to write in English 
again, and if people wanted to read his stories let them 
learn his good Connacht Irish or else go their ways in 
peace and ignorance. . . . Padraic told me many of the 
stories I read later in his books: the little ass, the nine 
Arabs who sought him, the snake he kept until he had to 
bury the creature by dropping it over a London bridge, 
neatly parcelled. Then a policeman rushed up and 
Padraic said: “What was in that parcel.^ A snake, 
constable ! The poor little snake was my only friend in 
the world and slept with me quiet and peaceful until 
one night the poor little snake escaped, and coiled itself 
round the landlady’s neck and had its brains dashed out 
by her angry husband, and where else could I drop it 
but in the Thames.^ Would you have me leave its 
remains among such heartless people, ray poor little 
snake And here’s the address, constable, if you have 
any doubts.” ... A shadow of the misery of the West 
stood out behind his jests. . . . Ireland was not all 
fairyland . . . rocks and hunger and journeys across 
the seas. . . . 

Padraic O’Conaire sat back at the fireside, the smoke 
of a cigarette curling over his slow smile, and he laid 
the box with golden guineas on its face and sides back 
on the table, brown mingling with blue haze floating 
in rings towards the low white ceiling, and twilight 
falling through the barred window of the lower room. 
My uncle’s grey-blue eyes lighted and he talked to my 
mother and Padraic, leaping from his arm-chair with 
Old Mac in the breach at Limerick, Old Mac with his 
questioning eyes and face like a full moon in a fog, 
haunted by Kathleen Ni Houlihan, and taught the 
Snowy-Breasted Pearl which suited his voice by my 
uncle in reparation for a slight misunderstanding. Old 

15 



Remembering Sion 

Mac had tapped him on the shoulder suddenly in the 
classroom and received a glare and an invitation to 
betake himself to Hell, “ but I never minded him for I 
knew he was thinking out a poem, and five minutes 
later he came across to me and said: ‘ Was I ever so 
rude to you now, Mac? I must teach you the Snowy- 
Breasted Pearl ! ’ ” . . . My uncle talks of Donegal and 
MaeSwine’s Gun roaring with spray through a hole in 
the cliffs and the dim headlands yonder with Knockfola 
and Fanad showing and Errigal rising from a sea of 
loneliness and heather . . . fine rebel reading lie had 
brought home to my grandfather under the shade of the 
Union Jack from Belfast. . . . Yesterday a policeman 
had clapped him on the back near Ludgate Circus, a 
Kerry man, and once a mighty hurler with the London 
teams: “ Good day, Mr. Boyd! Don’t be alarmed, it 
takes me to keep these bloody Saxons in order! ”... 
Leaping from his chair, forehead knitted and eloquent: 
“ Yes, we need a revolution in Ireland, revolution of 
mind and thought ! ” . . . Padraic and my mo filer 
quizzing him, but he grows more eloquent about his 
revolution. . . . Lionel Johnson and all the other poets 
falling together under die table: A tenihle and splendid 
trust heartens the host of Innisfail. . . . Their dream is 
of the swift sword-thrust. ... A lightning glory of the 
Gael. ... A dream, a dream, an artcient dream. . . , 
Yet ere peace come to Innisfail. . . . Some weapons on 
some field must gleam. . . . Some burning glory fire the 
Gael. . . . 

Just as good himself, had he not written: 

Thou art mighty, 0 Banba I 
More rich in thyself alone, 

Than that harlot upon a throne 

Whose lure is on every flood 

And whose robes are the price of blood. . . . 

1(1 



Remembering^ Sion 

And we love tkee^ 0 Banba, 

Though the spoiler be in thy haU^ 

And thou at t bereft of all^ 

Save only that Spit it for fiend 
Who shapes all things in the end. . . , 

A long time about it, anyway! From a slielf on the 
glass overmantel a bearded bard-like face gleamed out 
of a portrait: John O’Leary, last of the Fenians. Not 
quite the last. The old Fenian away in Wimbledon had 
walked back with that photograph over the hawthorn- 
lined hill in the early morn, like John O’Leary himself 
with long pointed beard and piercing eyes . . . bested 
the Castle in the Land League time . . . never forgave 
Parnell , . . nor the English. ... A long table in the 
room overhead where my father holds an Irish class 
and the old man from Wimbledon wrestles with Msop 
in Gaelic and waxes fierce as he discovers one more 
word the English stole from the Iiish and won’t admit 
that the Irish ever liad occasion to borrow any words 
themselves from Saxon or Latin, Plain as a pike- 
staff: frog and table and lamp and box, and word after 
word the scoundrels stole from us! Pity they never 
stopped at words! A pirated language and a pirate 
Empire 1 

A gleam of light on the gold on the cap as an officer 
goes by, and I am away from the ship again to noisy 
streets and horses trotting before tram-cars in the early 
morn. . , , With his smoking-cap on his head and his 
telescope beneath his atm, my grandfather mounts four 
flights in 306 Camberwell New Road, no one else 
stirring. He looks over the traffic towards the Green 
and finds it is five. He goes below to regulate all the 
clocks. Six silver medals in his desk for the Crimean 
War and his days in the navy and guarding the coasts 
of Ireland, his golden-tasselled sword with Damascus 
B 17 



Remembering Sion 

blade hanging in his wardrobe but his sword-stick ready 
for the burglars near the great wooden l^ed. . . . Reads 
under the white globe downstairs until my uncle returns 
in the early hours from listening to Batt Scanlan’s tunes. 
. . . Walked ten miles for a doctor the night his father 
died in the Famine Year and rested in a wayside house 
where he found a mother and her three children lying 
dead. . . . Corpses on the roadside. . . . Read John 
Mitchel’s United Irishman in the forge every week in 
his boyhood in the South to his friend the blacksmith 
and always loved Mitchel though he would have strung 
up that old blackguard, Gladstone, any day of the week 
and told tales of O’Connell when he forgot his grand- 
children were listening that made my grandmother cry: 
“ Tut-tut, Tom, that’s a Protestant invention. You 
never would have thought of it yourself! ” “ It’s no 

lie, Kate. He had a representative in every barony in 
Ireland.” Whereupon she attacked the family tree of 
the Boyds, insinuating that they originally came from 
Scotland (in spite of all his stout assertions that they 
were a South of Ireland family since Adam), and had 
he not told his Scotch curmudgeon friend round the 
corner that the Scotch contented themselves with leaping 
over a broom-stick with clasped hands, and who were 
the Scotch Boyds to spread tales about Daniel O’Connell 
anyway.? Then my grandfather, remembering his grand- 
children must not be scandalised, changed his method of 
attack by various emphatic historical digressions, in- 
cluding the wickedness of Mary Queen of Scots in 
murdering her husband with a gunpowder barrel. This 
saved the family tree of tlie Boyds from further attention 
but never left my grandfather the last word as my gj-and- 
mother had a small tartan-bound Life of Mary Queen of 
Scots which she knew by heart as well as the certain 
grounds on which Queen Elizabeth had left herself open 
i8 



Remembering Sion 

to criticism. So my grandfather was squelched with a 
final: “Collywest!” 

Then he went back to his books under the white 
globe, sometimes talking to my father and uncle and 
Padraic O’Conaire in the Irish he had learned from an 
old Munster woman during the long months he lay with 
a broken arm in the Southern district where there was no 
English spoken for miles around, hie had no veiy high 
opinion of the Irish to be found in the little pale-green 
books of Father O’Growney and the new speech of the 
Gaelic Leaguers. Only to Padraic O’Conaire would he 
bow as a true Irish speaker, and roll out the old prayers 
and proverbs his old nurse had taught him. Protestant 
and all as he was until his death-bed, he had no bigotry 
in religious matters although he was a good Tory. On 
Saint Patrick’s Day he would set out to listen in what- 
ever rare Catholic church in London had a sermon in 
Irish, and criticise or praise the idioms and manner of 
the preacher on his return, smoking-cap askew and his 
long white beard waving. . . . 

A hill winding up past the Fox on the inn, red-russet, 
couched and perky. . . . Brother Brendan cons his Irish 
texts under the mulberry trees and shows me a long 
row of the strange Gaelic-lettered books in his room. 

. . . Music of Gaelic rolling from him. . . . Back in 
Ireland now in the Brothers’ great house in ’Waterford. 

. . . Eugene and me under the trees fighting two hefty 
Cockneys for Ireland and getting the worst of it but 
rising again. . . . Brother George rasping out the weekly 
good conduct marks in his French accent, seeking with 
glittering black eyes whom he may devour in his little 
hall of judgment with the mottled-faced Superior watching 
his famous executions. Brother George gloating over his 
adder-toothed cane dusting his daily tribute of squirming 
backsides. . . . Eugene and me safe from his clutches 

19 



Remembering Sion 

in Brother Oswald’s venerable and gentle care. . . . 
Brother Oswald in his skull-cap, proud of his scroll- 
work penmanship which won him gold medals at the 
exhibitions ... a gentle disciplinarian. Sometimes he 
rises wrathful and leads with stern look a pupil out on 
to the stairs. . . . Tremendous tumult without. . . . 
Brother Oswald re-enters with the victim and says with 
dignity: “ Let that be a lesson to you, ut, you fellow, 
you ! ” But we all know Brother Oswald has only 
beaten the floor and stairs and ceiling and left the culprit 
untouched. . . . Green fields near the Fox on the Hill 
and the hill hawthorn-lined which sweeps down past the 
blind man to Dulwich, hunger and thirst for the green 
fabled hills and lands of Ireland in the dust and sun- 
scorched streets of London. 

Nearer now with every leaping wave. Shadows in 
the London away back beyond the seas, dark as this all- 
encircling night. Dark as death and journeys into the 
dark. . . . First coffin I ever saw in my grandfather’s 
house with candles burning round it and a wealth of 
lilies of the valley and a brass crucifix over the name- 
plate with my aunt Eunice underneath . . . memory of 
the hospital ward where she had waited for the operation 
which had not saved her ... a trundling lorry passes 
down from the operating theatre, a child runs crying 
after its mother unconscious on the stretcher with 
anresthetic-glazed eyes . . . theatre to which my aunt 
goes in her turn . . . but the surgeons cannot save her 
from the coffin and candles. . . . Requiem of the Canon 
in the church round the corner with trains roaring past 
and the voice which Manning had known murmuring in 
Latin . . . his white hands sprinkle the coffin with holy 
water from the uplifted brush and yellow candles gleam. 
... A grave yawning on a high hill and the Canon 
blesses the lowered coffin, solemn in stole and biretla. 



RemembeTing Sion 

. . . Death comes in threes, they say. . , . Another 
coffin, a white veil within and my sister has gone. . . . 
Another grave and the sister I hardly knew has gone too. 

Nearer to Ireland with every leaping wave. . . . Big 
Ben gleaming. . . . The Canon talking about the 
Fenians : a great fiasco, police warned them, and hundreds 
cleared for America. ... A French Communist General, 
one Cluseret, to lead them . . . that came out later and 
justified Church’s condemnation. . . . Condemned by 
the Church ... all oath-bound secret societies wrong 
even to win back the Papal States. . . , Church says 
established authority must be upheld. . . . Overthrown, 
then Church blesses new order. . . . Rude to tell him, 
but that’s the tip: overthrow and tell the Church 
after. . . . Only sermons that ever held me. . . . 
Master of words at the Midnight Mass. ... A saint 
some say. 

Isle of Saints lurking beyond those flying cloud- 
banks. The many-voiced ship speeds over illimitable 
green in the half-dark. ... He dreams of Ireland too. 
... A soldier’s son. . . . Canon William Murnane has 
not seen Tipperary this many a long year. . . . Others 
who had told me of the approaching El Dorado: my 
mother with old stories of Balbriggan and snowy Errigal 
in Donegal, reading out A. M. Sullivan’s Story of Ireland 
and Joyce’s Old Celtic Romances. 

Overhead black clouds wound from the funnels and 
kissed the waters and faded out to faint and passing sails. 

. . . Nearer to Dublin and my father beside the Boyne. 

. . . Tales of the Land War and the nights his people 
had been evicted into the snow beside a tumbled house. 

. . . Brown peat-bogs of Ireland. . . . Once he brought 
us back a black sod from Tipperary, hard and sweet- 
scented and none of the brown stuff sold four a penny 
in London town. . . . Row after row of books in Gaelic 



Remetnhering Start 

type I had seen in his study next the arm-chair whose 
shadow I had once taken to he God before I could 
spell. 

Shaping hills and lighthouses turning and blinking in 
the dawn with the low cries of birds and the noble coast, 
and then in the half-light I saw the Bay and Dublin 
beyond. 



TWO 


B ut though I saw Dublin I was not to know her 
yet for two years more, beyond a passing glimpse 
of tree and tram-sets as the jaunting-car rushed us across 
the city to the Broadstone Station to the train which bore 
us to Navan in the County Meath where my father was 
editing the Irish Peasant, a paper the story of which he 
has told in his novel, The Plough and the Cross, and his 
book, The Pope s Green Island. Perhaps it was because 
we had not lingered in Dublin tliat some mekiicholy is 
associated with this first glimpse of Navan, for to me 
Navan had to be my first real look at the Ireland I had 
weaved into such a pattern of history and memory on the 
boat. It rained. And rained. And rained. The car even 
with Leonard smiling a welcome and asking for news of 
all his folk in London turned into no ship riding a magic 
sea. Leonard was die manager of the paper, and his 
smile in days to come could light the darkest valley, and 
his wit was as catching as his laughter, but this day the 
dull skies and the drizzling showers soon damped him. 
The car drove across what seemed some bleak and very 
empty space to the centre of the town. Opposite the 
office of the Irish Peasant some lonely and desolate men 
were seated on the steps of a bank, staring listlessly. 
Later local legend crowned them with mirdi and fancy. 
One I know now was the Knacker Begg, crimson and 
frowsy, sucking his clay pipe and cadging for pints but 
not devoid of pride and spirit withal, for when one of the 
local clergy, a proud and aloof man, had knocked him 
off the wall of the Canal below the hill headforemost into 

23 



Rememhering Sion 

a field of nettles^ for some insolent remark in bectj, the 
Knacker Begg more crimson-facccl than ever had risen 
fiom the dust with the proud oath: ‘‘ I didn't know you, 
Father, but by the Father, Son and Holy Ghost I iiave 
forgotten more than you ever learned ! ” . . . The lonely 
men stared through the rain, the Sons of Rest scaled at 
the portals of Wealth. 

It was no omen of the next two years spent in Meath, 
royal in pastures and memory, of journeys on tlic Mcatli 
roads on a bicycle with a sight of all the wonders of the 
Boyne and the quick and eager talk of the visitors who 
passed ihrough the lush Pca.\ant office, a whole world 
of men on bicycles gripped by the Irish-Ircland ideal, 
of pipers, kilts and rolling orations in Irish and arguments 
and tales droll and wonderful and arguments again, and 
songs in the long room above the fiont office which looked 
out through sun and rain on the Sons of Rest on the bank 
steps, the cattle and groups on a fair ckay, and the magic 
and fateful liver wood-fringed and a fair vlsia on its every 
mile just round the corner. Sometimes Leonard and I 
rode many miles and saw a great crowd of story-tellers 
and pipers and eager men with banners and drums 
marching through a field, and the melody of Irish on 
some musical lip which had formed £ix)m the cradle clear 
and sweet talcs and songs from an Ireland, liunger- 
hemmed and wave-lapped on the western soa-board now: 

Abandoned^ forsaken^ 

To grkj and to care 
Will the sea ever waken 
Relief fjom despair? . . . 

And my love came behind me — 

He came from the Souths 
His breast to my bosom^ 

His mouth to my mouth* 


24 



Remembering Sion 

In the long room above the Square the words gleamed 
out of the yellow book lifted from the table, quaint 
English prose around this sudden beauty and the wonder- 
locked Gaelic lettering on the parallel page: The Love- 
Songs of Corinacht^hjDx.T^Qxi^ii^l^YAc.. . . . His photo 
yonder on the wall: a great dark bird. ... In the 
Square a glow of colour and bcribboned drones moving 
on to light and reconquer the bullock-held acres of 
Meath. ... A motor-bike flashing past the rose-bowered 
barracks to the field and the music and the dancers on the 
platforms : Sean with the gimlet eyes has won again ! . . . 
A dark man with a sour voice in the room above the 
Square argues about the clergy with Seamus, who has 
ridden in all the way from the Midlands to join tlie Irish 
Peasant staff. . . . The dark man is for the clergy and 
Seamus is critical. . . . There has been trouble in 
Portarligton about Gaelic League classes. . . . The 
clergy have objected to mixed classes and trodden on 
the corns of an Ulsterman. . . , There have been scenes 
in the church and arguments in the Irish Peasant, and 
the curate in Portarligton has been talking about Kerry 
potwallopcrs among the Portarligton Gaelic Leaguers, 
but the Ulsterman knows his catechism as well as he 
knows the Irish of the Donegal glens. . . . The dark 
man grows sourer and sourer and takes away twenty 
characters to every half-dozen words. ... He knocks 
all the Irish-Ireland idols off their pedestals . . . they 
wear English manufacture . . . they all speak bad Irish 
. . . the only Irish is Kerry Irish. . . . There is an 
English idiom in this book. . . . Every critic of the 
clergy keeps or wants to keep a harem on the quiet. . . . 
The clergy know that and that’s why that young man 
up in Dublin who used to criticise them had to leave for 
America. . . . They told his employer more than was 
good for the young fellow. . . . There is another 

25 



RemembeTing Sion 

English idiom in that book. . . . Pcarse, the Editor of 
the official Gaelic League organ, writes bad Irish too . . . 
mad on Connacht Irish. . . . Kerry the only place for 
Irish. . . . Reminds me of my grandlalher and what 
the old woman in the South told him : “ A Munsterman 
would sow and dig and cook and peel and eat a field of 
potatoes while a Connachtraan would still be saying, 
prdtai.” . . . Seamus bombards the man from Kerry, 
but the man from Kerry has no use for Sitm Fein and 
says Griffith couldn’t learn Irish lo save his life. . . . 
My father restores the peace and the man from Kerry 
unbends and speaks cheerfully for the rest of the night 
and tells amusing tales of Kerry and sings a song in 
Kerry Irish with a c|uizzical look at Seamus, asking him 
if he understood it and to remember to say his prayers 
and leave the clergy to mind their own business for 
they have been longer at the business than all the lay 
Popes who are sprouting like mushrooms. . . . Seamus 
drinks his health. . . . 

A wind from the West, a kinder wind than that which 
blows from Padraic O’Conaire’s mouth: Michael Breath- 
nach tells us of Connemara and old folk-tales and the 
snowy mountains he will sec in Switzerland when he goes 
back to fight his losing battle with consumption. . . . 
He’d say prdtai quicker than any Kerry man ! 

The rasping voice of the man from Kerry has an echo 
daily from the lips of Meath. ... A jeering question 
about these mad Irish-Irelandcrs frames itself in bovine 
eyes. The question led me to ask another. In the 
County Meath tliat I found beyond the lights of Dublin 
I found there was something else besides the ruins 
behind the river banks and an enormous lump besides 
the tiny leaven of Sinn Feiit: the farmer was much 
given to praising his lands, the huntsman his hounds, 
and others enjoyed their little cruiscin Idn, A thin, dark 



Remembering Sion 

and ugly tread had to be woven into my dream-pattern. 
There is a story of Brinsley MacNaraara’s in which the 
returned ex-soldiers after the Great War look at each 
other in an Irish country town clay after day with the 
doleful heart-cry: “This is a bloody awful place!” 
The author had to fly from his infuriated fellow-Mid- 
landers for similar cameos of Midland life, but in this 
phrase he fixed for all time the atmosphere of many a 
little town in Ireland which drink and gossip and scandal 
and mire and political windbags and rain and the pro- 
vincialism of a half-anglicised, slavish and hopeless mind 
had turned into pestilentially bloody awful places. 

Not that the town of Navan hacl a very dark tread in 
my pattern when all was said, certainly not so dark a one 
as another I knew which went up in smoke and tragedy 
in days to come, red murder and screaming Black and 
Tans coming like Attilas to round off its inner chronicle 
of gaming and drink and darker depths, closing its 
whisky and port-soaked life-in-death and sending it 
limping into history like James after the Boyne “with 
one shoe Irish and one shoe English, neither fighting 
nor making peace.” The worst of Navan was the rain 
and the surplus of cattle over humans, but Navan for 
all that stands near the Boyne within six easy miles or 
so of Tara. The old people of Navan would stir to life 
at the mention of Parnell, and were as hospitable as the 
rest through all the little towns of Meath. Along the 
roads I found Round Towers and Celtic crosses and 
tumbled castles and ruined abbeys with romantic legends 
of underground passages through which the monks had 
walked for miles underground long ago, and magic caves 
by the Boyne, and a Stone of Destiny on Tara itself. . . . 
In after years I was to hear Patrick Pearse speak on a 
Meath hill of the greatest of the Meath dreamers. Father 
Eugene O’Growney, who dreamed first among the sleepy 

27 



Rememhering Sion 

green of Meath of the restoration of the Irish language, 
whose pale-green books were passing from hand to hand 
through the little towns of Ireland, a light in the darkness. 

Then there were the wonders of the printing office 
with its whirring machines and the type to be read back- 
wards and clicking linotypes and ink-drums, and John 
the foreman printer with his merry talcs of the angry 
reporters who came down to ask him for the loan of some 
erring printer for half an hour so that misprints could be 
written with avenging fist on the bungler’s face or until 
he was taught not to wink at the wrong girl when the 
tender-hearted reporters were away taking down the long 
speeches of the Guardians verbatim ad nauseam. ... Or 
Seamus and Sean chuckling in the outer office over the 
progress of Sean’s great battle with the police to which 
I shall come in a moment, Scan flashing away through the 
door on to his motor-bike with a sliarp eye out for a 
prowling constable, having hatched with Seamus another 
onslaught upon sundry West Britons and snobs and foes 
of Irish-Ireland in the town of Navan. . . , Or tumbling 
out the door on my bicycle to explore the neighbouring 
towns of Trim and Kells, not missing the monument in 
the former town erected once to the Duke of Wellington 
by the awestricken and grateful inhabitants of the county 
to that famous man, and a very ugly stone monstrosity 
it was, that expression of their gratitude, I must recall. . . . 
Or setting forth for the first time to see Tara wiih very 
simple ideas as to what I should find there : 

Hosts of Ghosts the meadow-sweet 
All the way to Tara. 

But where are the halls of which Moore sang.^ You 
will not find them for they were of wood and crumbled 
long ago, and unless a learned man takes you to Tara now 
there is only imagination to rebuild the glories of old on 
^8 



Remembering Sion 

the grassy slopes crowned by this Stone of Destiny 
under which sleep some unknown Croppies who fell in 
the Ninety-Eight uprising, and a statue of Saint Patrick 
scarred by some local joker who took a pot shot at his 
thumb and would have dug up the hill to find the Ark 
of the Covenant in a drunken freak had not the sharp pen 
of Arthur Griffith in Fownes Street, Dublin, scratched 
a note in the United Irishman one week and sobered the 
vandal. Along the Meath roads I went on a bicycle and 
found a ruined abbey at Bcctive and a cross in a church- 
yard at Kells near a crownless Round Tower, and on 
the cross a kindly journalist with a face like a turkey 
pointed out Adam and Eve crudely hewn upon a weather- 
worn Eden, Beside the Boyne the canal wound to Slane 
where Patrick had lighted his fire and the steamer 
Rosnaree ran bravely with her six knots tliither in summer 
through all the locks past the cmetald beauty of Beaupark 
into the great river, past the bacon factory where the 
lives of pigs squealed through their slashed throats with 
a smell of leather and weeds, and barges lumbering after 
patient horses past a crumbling Norman castle on the 
far bank. Placid sergeants and constables watched every- 
one from bullock to bona fide trampers to the pubs six 
miles away on Sundays, very sleek and benevolent under 
an arch of roses outside a sleepy barracks as often as not 
and riding on the footpaths on their way to court a maid, 
or slip into a pub themselves and none too particular 
whether cyclists lighted up or no, and laughing at stray 
Sinn Feiners and odd Gaelic Leaguers, too proud and 
principled to salute the police, and mad enough to speak 
to them in Irish only, although the auburn-haired 
constable was a native speaker who could have talked 
them all into the Croppies’ Grave and would have been 
a Sinn Feiner himself only he had been turned into the 
Royal Irish Constabulary by family considerations long 

29 



Rememhering Sion 

before he had time to think it out. So he contented him- 
self with greeting the more polite Sinn Feiners who sailed 
into the home of bullocks and peace and rich grass in 
Irish and smiling at the others and ofl'cring lo examine 
them in the first book of O’Growncy, and wish in the 
dear old tongue that the devil would throw them all over 
the edge of a cliff to find their manners and that the 
mourners at a wake would shortly raise a death scream 
in the dawn for them. Past lumbering herds of horned 
brown and black beasts, and mournful protests from their 
red and uplifted mouths as an ash-plant drove them 
onward, flashed the motor-bike of an implacable and hard- 
eyed foe of the police, Scan, the frictid of Seamus, well- 
fitted to match oath with oath and proverb with proverb 
had he so minded with the auburn-haired constable. 
There was war between the motorist and the police over 
the licence: until they issued it to Sean, John would not 
pay for it nor the fines accruing, and therewith a merry 
game of hide-and-seek or rather catch-as-catch-can went 
on between police and motorist until in the end the law 
should permit Sean to sign as Sean and pay as Sean and 
ride as Sean. For there was a great struggle in progress 
in this time between the Castle and the Gaelic League 
for the right to write one’s name in Irish on cart and legal 
document, and in County Meath it centred round this 
motor-cycle which hummed like a snail up to the rose- 
bowered barracks and past like a roaring and defiant 
monster with mountains of smoke writing Sean, not 
John in the eyes and noses of the constables, too late 
for a capture again. Father O’Farrell, a tall, pale and 
stately man, dominated the landscape on a magnificent 
brown horse, saluting gravely. Down the stony slopes 
through the town hurried the Reverent President to the 
Seminary, never raising his grey brooding eyes from the 
pavement, lost in thought and known to the wits as 
10 



Retnemhering Sion 

“ Dinny the Stepper.” Down the long green lanes in 
the evenings stole the courting couples with eyes alert 
for the prowling priest, who seized the hats of his lady 
parishioners when he found them cuddling after dusk. 
In due course they called round for their hats and a 
sermon on the snares of the flesh. Out of earshot they 
asked why his reverence never bade certain rich townsmen 
with di ink-sodden faces to moderate tlieir public embraces 
of huzzies who found favour in their eyes. Or why he 
never refused the subscription of these same gentlemen 
always very high on the list of Christmas and Easter 
dues. For in Navan this method of stimulating sub- 
scriptions to the clergy still prevailed. The list read 
out publicly in church was an ordeal for those families 
beaten in the race. Twopence made an extra effort next 
time to pass out twopence-lialfpenny. That those who 
preached the Gospel should live by the Gospel had ample 
warrant, but this worldly wisdom of the clergy grated 
upon me nearly everywhere in Ireland from Navan to 
the Cathedral town, where I once saw the collectors 
bobbing round with nets on high poles to reach the lofty 
galleries and some of the Dublin churches where the 
Mass was accompanied by one prolonged rattle of money 
and shouting collectors. 

I but note this feeling of mine in these memories of 
Sion as a record of the contrast which so suddenly pre- 
sented itself between the Catholic community of London 
fighting for its life against a hostile atmosphere, vigilant 
criticism, the healthy competition of all creeds and no 
creed, and this youthful impression of a country where 
the Church reigned supreme. To claim this Meath 
picture as representative of Irish Catholicism or as 
more than an irritating incidental, very understandable 
from the historic causes which left the Irish clergy as 
the leaders of the people would be unjust; to claim that 

31 



Remembering Sion 

there were no other types of clergymen even in the Meath 
of that time would be equally so for the Grecian profile 
of an erudite and witty priest dismissing the antics of 
his brethren with a puff of his pipe and a shake of his 
head even then restored the balance. The real religion 
of Ireland is quite another thing. “ Your Pope can bind 
you with an oath ! ” said a foolish critic to the best Irish 
Catholic I know. “ Bah ! ” he replied, “ the only oath 
your only English Pope tried to impose on us was 
vomited up in his lap ! ” 

Arrogant clericalism of that time was one of the curses 
of Ireland, and to some degree still is. To deepen this 
impression of mine came the clash Ijetwcen the Irish 
Peasant and Cardinal Logue, who used all his influence 
against the paper from pressure on the proprietors to 
threats to denounce it publicly as “ perniciously anti- 
Catholic.” His only excuse was that some articles which 
he admitted he had not even read advocated popular- 
control of education in place of the existing clerical 
system of management. From this started the five years’ 
duel between the Irish Peasant and its srrccessor, the 
Irish Nation, and Irish clericalism, which eventually drove 
my father out of Ireland. It was in reality but one move 
in the struggle between Sinn Fein and the official Church 
authorities which as ustral backed the dominant political 
party until it and they were well and truly beaten, and 
the time came to bless where frowns and hints of Hell- 
fire had been the order before. 

But away with these old battles to the sound of a 
distant drum beyond the Market Square while the bank 
steps groaned three times like the fabulous Waves of 
Ireland in past times, for long have these steps been cold 
for the Sons of Rest now in the ranks of the Militia 
marching home bounty-laden from the annual training. 
Constables and pubs wailed breathless while the Square 
^2 



Remembering Sion 

filled with sliouting, drunken, fighting men who soon 
crammed the cells of the baiTack below the winding hill 
until space gave out. To-morrow the bounty would be 
spent and Navan in peace for another year. Down in 
the Barrack Lane it was a night when money scattered 
wildly lighted up hours long dull and rain-sodden with 
whisky. Brains flamed like tar-barrels, and tongues 
erupted, volcanoes of lurid wordy lava. Biddy and her 
three daughters, more terrible than twenty Militias 
marching home there, flared and sputtered most. Biddy 
was only a half-wit and tippler with bawdy tongue, a 
wisp of iron-grey hair across her russet, leering face. 
But when her three daughters drank, the constables 
blushed and sent for three stout and generous blankets, 
knowing modesty’s veil would be rent soon in broad 
daylight and Biddy’s three powerful daughters affect with 
blasphemous rendings of their garments the garb of Eve. 

These were but specks on the fair face of Meath. The 
trees fringing the banks of the Boyne, the herds on fields 
and roads, the ruined tower of some old castle or the 
moss-mantled wall of some crumbled church rising on 
a hill over broad acres, bees and lambs and horned beasts 
and solemn farmers on a stone wall debating skies and 
harvests and prices, surpassed the old visons in the London 
shop-fronts. Here was no dust and heat but the rich 
old earth. Three doors away lived a kindly and sturdy 
family that showed me all of Meath that sweetens the 
retrospect: a trotting mare conquering winding hills to 
the old farm and Bertie showing me all the twists and 
turns of the grazing spaces and mapping woods and slopes 
and distant towns to be seen in quick and pleasant phrases ; 
the cool kitchen of the old farm-house where we drank 
quarts of buttermilk and wandered out to climb over- 
hanging trees and talk with soft-eyed calves and value 
any heifer or horse at a glance, and Bertie rolling out 
G 3^ 



Rememhering Sion 

all the Land Acts which he had learned off by rote. Soon 
there was no need to sit behind the trotting mare, for 
Jack and Bertie brought me out on a fixed pedal-bike and 
with their shouts in my ears of warning and encourage- 
ment I mastered it with only one toss into the Knacker 
Begg’s expiatory clump of nettles at the foot of the hill 
near the Canal. Sometimes, under the fruit trees of the 
farm, ditches were leaped and long jumps taken and 
impromptu football matches played until we were ready 
to sit down to rich home-baked bread and butter from 
the churn, and Bertie’s mother wielded the great blue 
tea-pot, and Bertie’s father, Peter, raised the ghost of 
Parnell and the fierce scenes in the now quiet town of 
Navan as the Chief had tottered to his grave. . . . Old 
women in their fury had brandished pitchforks on the 
main street at the very priests, for they were not minded 
to mince their words and deeds in the fury of the Meath 
Election Petition. . . . They remembered the Biblical 
language in the Bishop’s pastoral. . . . Peter spoke 
without bitterness, raising his great red eyebrows and 
laughing at the venom of old battles and the speeches 
he had made on a platform in the Market Square. . , . 
The shadow of the Parnell Split lingered as he spoke and 
we looked out through the long, high windows at a 
great droopiirg ash, , . . The Split that had riven every 
family in Ireland. . . . Parnell who held Irish freedom 
in the hollow of his hand . . . hounded to death by 
jealous priests and whining Nonconformists. . . . Why 
were the Bishops always the second line of the British 
Army of Occupation.^ . . . The farm vanished and I 
was back in London and my grandfather speaking of 
distant Donegal and an old priest who lived as hard and 
hunger-pinched life as his parishioners and his casual 
phrase that the priests of Meath lived like princes. . . , 
Shadows came over my childish dreams of the Church. . . . 
34 



Remembering Sion 

The Church was different here . . . dreary, arrogant 
sermons and its creed for slaves. . . . Over somnolent 
Navan at noon and eve rang the Angelus bell, and groups 
at corners uncovered and prayed. . . . Down the roads 
in the evenings went the priest to seize the lovers’ hats. . . . 
Behind the constables in the church on Sundays with the 
solid rolls of fat on their napes I listened to the sermons, 
and a musty smell came back to me : an old musty box 
in London with black, ragged books which raved of 
flaming hells and bats and adders flitting round howling 
hosts of the lost in an ocean of deathless fire. . . . Scruple- 
searching lists of quaint sins in old prayer-books, priests 
in London laughed at. . . . Literal tales of Adam and Eve 
in the Garden rolling out from the pulpit here. . . . 
Lenten pastorals droning in one’s ears with solemn 
denunciations of the Fenians and women’s fashions and 
the wicked world and verbiage strewn with Scriptural 
texts and compliments paid by the Hierarchy to them- 
selves. . . . Subscription lists at Christmas and Easter 
and these hectoring priests who seemed to rule the 
land. . . . Outside a burst of humour which chases the 
shadows: “Trust their Lordships to know all about 
the ladies’ wardrobes the Church is divine, She even 
survives the clergy.' ”... Hoaiy yarn of the man who 
listened to the seimon: “ Why, when I am just wavering 
back to the Faith, does one of these fellows set me off 
again ” 

Thirty miles to Dublin and few people on the roads 
save the drovers and sprawling, lowing, slipping, dung- 
splashed herds of brown and black. . , . The magic — ■ 
fair and sombre — of Ireland went into my blood, and 
even before I turned towards Dublin two years later the 
accent and memory of London grew dimmer and a faint 
nostalgia betimes for the old quick life beside the Thames 
faded with my dream on the many- voiced ship. 


15 



THREE 


S ometimes m Iiclancl a comfortable Civil Servant 
will come up smiling darkly or an Iiishman of an 
older geneiation or a young gitl wrapt in some dream- 
pattern like mine on the boat, and ask smugly, ferociously 
or sadly : 

“ wily do our young waters all hold up theii fellow- 
countrymen’s faults to foreign countries ? ” Sometimes 
the addendum follows, “ and for gain.” Or there is 
talk of “ playing to the English gallery ” or “ the Sewer 
School.” The young writers and old writers and all the 
writers who have ever considered the existing oppor- 
tunities for publishing anything beyond a school-text in 
Ireland or who know the sublime indifference of the 
English gallery and pit and stalls to Ireland perforce let 
question and addendum in one ear and out the other. 
For some inexplicable reason, Professor Daniel Corkery 
spoiled his fine book on Synge by pandering to this 
canting humbug. He coined the word “ expatriate ” to 
excommunicate the majority of the Irish race, unctuously 
quoted the names of Ibanez, Ibsen and Turgenev, which 
shattered his case to pieces, and then back to his study 
of the man he once had the courage to defend as 
Synge himself emerged from a storm of catcalls from the 
“ expatriate ” stage. A great cheer went up from all 
the moral cowards of Ireland who adopted Professor 
Corkery’s new word as a bulwark of censorship and an 
excuse from reading anything that might disturb them, 
probably including all the works of Professor Corkery 
himself, one of the greatest minds that ever came out of 
^6 



Remembering Sion 

Munster : too great a mind to believe that only those 
who never leave Ireland know Ireland best. The Pro- 
fessor’s literary conscience sent shocked whispers through 
his sub-consciousness : the fatal name of Ibsen, proudest 
of expatriates, the fatal name of Ibanez, Republican ex- 
patriate who watered the Spanish mixture more generously 
with Zola than any Anglo-Irish writer ever dared to mix 
Irish soil with English roots, Tuigenev, life-long ex- 
patriate less near to Russian life in Paris than James 
Joyce to Dublin. 

The truth was that some demon had turned Daniel 
Corkery the patiiol into Daniel Corkery the pro- 
vincialist. To leave Ireland often means to know 
Ireland better, and too few of those who should leave 
their country for their country’s good have the sense to 
do so. The expatriates ” — only literary expatriates 
are included in the phrase of opprobrium for some 
strange reason — do for Ireland what Ireland too seldom 
does for heiself. This is no great virtue on their parts : 
looking back over their shoulders they see the thing half 
seen before. The names on the Professor’s jumbled 
Index prove this: D. L. Kelleher turns round and fixes 
Cork in a ballad like Padna for ever; Joyce and Moore 
all the humanity, glittering speech, murk, malice and 
life of Dublin; Austin Clarke the dim splendour of the 
saint and scholars and sinners of old, yielding to his 
Bright Temptation, And very few names in the jumbled 
Index indeed are the names of those who live on the 
profits of their Irish writings. Only those who love 
Ireland so much that they have to write or burst ever 
really write of Ireland. 

Then they have to find publishers. The feelings of 
British publishers about the Irish market is vety truth- 
fully if rudely summed up in the savage remark of a 
veteran in London: “The Irish public never buys a 

37 



Rememhering Sion 

book, and only reads the borrowed review copy.” The 
Irish publishers will publish school-texts and histories 
and books which never offend anybody. Many of the 
greatest Anglo-Irish writers are published abroad. Patrick 
Pearse, on the eve of his death, after long negotiations 
with Irish publishers managed to get his masterpieces in 
his last volume of short stories published in Ireland only 
by consenting to sell the copyright out for six pounds; 
the second greatest writer in Irish, Padraic O’Conaire, 
died of starvation in a ditch. It is easy enough to win 
applause in Ireland if the writer consents to deal with 
any subject more than ten years old, to curry favour 
with the political party for the moment on top, to 
remember all the sex, moral, political, and religious 
taboos, and above all to respect the personal vanity and 
prejudices of all the organisers of the sectarian and 
political cliques who clutter up public life. The altern- 
ative is to win recognition abroad and then the slave 
mind of Ireland after a moment of cynicism and envy 
bows down and adores. Every Irish writer receives his 
due ten years after his funeral, unless he manages to 
get the British to shoot or hang him. But the British 
cannot shoot and hang all the Irish writers, preferring 
to read one out of ten. Sometimes a British publisher 
with a literary conscience looks over the Irish El Dorado 
and sees the golden nuggets. He then, as strange and 
uncomprehensible as all publishers ever are, does for the 
Irish what the Irish are too cowardly or too smug to 
do for themselves. He encourages the Irish writer to 
pick up the golden nugget and show it to the world. 
That some British publishers encourage a type of writing 
politely called Irish but really the emigri propagatida of 
bitter ascendancy pens in no wise detracts from the 
credit due to foreign publishers who must support Irish 
literature on its merits alone. 

^8 



Remembering Sion 

But the Old School can never see this. It is a miracle 
how the Old School does not make the fortunes of the 
expatriates^ for they denounce them all, and some one 
must presumably buy the copies of the books pilloried. 
The glow of moral indignation of the Old School demands 
respect. I knew an Irishman of the Old School who 
once tackled me in Mooney’s in the Strand because I 
had written an article on Irish literature of to-day and 
praised certain Irish writers. I go to Mooney’s about 
twice a year to catch an Irish accent and the honest 
speech of Ireland which shocks Ireland on the platform 
in Ireland’s virtuous and hypocritical moods but which 
is the speech of Ireland in private, and long may that 
be so. I was enjoying the vivid speech of this Irishman, 
and his freedom from euphemisms and his real know- 
ledge of the Ireland he had left years before. I wanted 
to listen to him much more than make him read me. But 
Con O’Leary was with me, and he would not rest until 
I showed our friend what I had written. I had men- 
tioned Con’s name and our friend adjusted his spectacles 
in the mood to praise. He read the article through and 
looked me over in sorrow and pity. He mounted a 
stool and seated himself and condoned my youth and 
inexperience with a courtly preliminary word of ex- 
planation and warning that in what he would say there 
was nothing personal. Then he thundered a quotation 
in Latin from Horace at me, translated it as meaning 
that the function of literature was to soften manners, 
to heighten morals, to inspire, to elevate and to amuse. 
He followed up with a text from St. Paul, and the glasses 
danced on the counter, and thewhole of Mooney’s listened 
as he went on : 

Too well we know these realists, this Sewer School, 
these callow country youths who descend on Dublin 
and shriek aloud to a bored and listless world that in 


39 



Rememlering Sion 

Dublin they have visited the slews and reported the 
ravings of trollops. Too well we know them. We 
don’t want them. Take this fellow, Blank-Blonk, you 
praise so highly. The less said of Blank-Blonk the 
better. He and a friend of mine were walking through 
a Dublin street and Blank-Blonk pointed to a passing 
female who had found favour in his eyes, no better 
than she ought to be, and avowed he desired her, and 
by God! young man, Blank-Blonk followed her and 
possessed her in the sight of the passing multitude. 
That’s Blank-Blonk for you. The others whom you 
mention — and the veiy mention of a name the poet 
Martial tells us is a meed never to be accorded by the 
just to the ignoble — have painted a picture of Irish life 
which, were it even half-true, would call imperatively for 
the absolute extirpation of the Irish race.” 

In the days before I found a speck of dust on the 
emerald of Meath I should have turned down my thumb 
for Blank-Blonk, whom I later discovered to be of the 
opinion of Renan, that the orthodox must never be 
shocked in more than one way at a time. And into 
the very accents of my friend in Mooney’s crept a fear 
that our writers were telling too much. Virtue cannot 
always call up frail phantoms to deflect the arrows of a 
love to hatred turned. The whole of Mooney’s soon 
left off listening to the oration, for I forbore to fan the 
orator beyond his first peroration. I had heard all he 
had said years before and knew the other side of his 
argument. My friend in Mooney’s was old and learned 
in many things, and generally right when he stopped 
ten years short of the present. I had a cordial invitation 
from him to visit him in his house on the riverside and 
continue the discussion. But unfortunately he had 
turned eighty and joined Saint Finnbarr beyond the skies 
less than a week later. As we parted in the Strand he 
40 



Rememhering Sion 

came back to his argumentj for someone mentioned 
Ulysses. '' A great book! ’’ he said, with a benign side- 
glance at me. A very great book. He would have 
been the greatest man we have, had he only burned it. 
Or left it in the jakes he found it in. Good night now, 
boys, and God bless you all/^ 

All the way home I was back in the El Dorado I had 
found two years after I left County Meath, and the fuss 
there about Synge, the Blank-Blonk of that day. It was 
in the days of wlaich Patrick Pearse wrote: '‘Ireland 
in our day, as in the past, has excommunicated some of 
those who served her best, and canonised some of those 
who served lier worst. We damn a man for an unpopular 
phrase; we deify a man who does a Avrong thing grace- 
fully. The word to us is ever more significant than 
the deed. When a man like Synge, a man in whose 
sad heart there glowed a true love of Ireland, one of the 
two or three men who have in our time made Ireland 
considerable in the eyes of the world, uses strange 
symbols which we do not understand, we cry out that 
he has blasphemed and we proceed to crucify him. 
When a sleek lawyer, rising step by step through the 
most ignoble of all professions, attains to a Lord- 
Chancellorship or to an Attorney-Generalship, we confer 
upon him the freedom of our cities.” But long before 
Pearse had written that, Synge had set many estimable 
persons rioting, and legend went that the very police had 
had to turn their hacks or else they might have followed 
the angry man from Connacht across the footlights. 
The night Synge died I heard a friend say: ''I suppose 
we should not mention it, but there is one enemy of 
Ireland the less.” A listener with fiery eyes and an 
angry mane of hair broke in with: “There are some 
damned ignorant people in this city of Dublin and you 
are amongst the damnedest of them.” On the instant, 

41 



Rememhering Sion 

challenged and challenger rolled and grappled on the 
licarth-rug with a glorious clash of fire-irons to be torn 
apart, gory, defiant and of the same opinion as before. 
It was an appropriate place to continue the Synge con- 
troversy, for farther down the street Synge had died, 
and each morning Yeats and Lady Gregory had passed 
the windows to visit him in his nursing-home, “ the 
man in whose sad heart had glowed a true love of Ireland.” 
This clash with fire-irons was in its way a proud salute 
to Dublin, for there are few cities where men will fight 
over a playwright’s corpse. Otherwise, it was a mere 
family row like the two men my mother saw in a lane 
near-by in handgrips. “ Ah, leave them alone,” said a 
wise old man, “ and don’t worry, ma’am, aren’t they 
brothers-in-law.^ ” 

There is some excuse for the Dubliners’ eternal 
resentment against those who use pens and typewriters 
rather than tongues. “ Good Heavens ! ” say the 
Dubliners when a stranger comes over and picks a 
random nugget of gold off the streets. “ The thick ejot, 
we have that every day.” Sometimes the stranger 
fashions a quaint or distorted or partial picture of Dublin 
from the gold, and then the fire-irons clash on all the 
hearth-rugs of Dublin. Half El Dorado is always right, 
anyway. But the other half of El Dorado has never 
learned the obvious truth that the very caricaturists of 
any people are often unconsciously their best friends. 
Who loves the Jews the less for Zangwill, the Welsh 
for Caradoc Evans, or the Irish for O’Casey.^ All Quiet 
on the Western Front came as a very herald of peace to 
many Englishmen and women by merely showing that 
the Hun was plain Karl after all. Thousands, too, have 
seen a sudden light on the agony of Ireland in the dis- 
torted mirror of The Plough and the Stars, where O’Casey 
in his rage against war and the agony of the common 
42 



Remembering Sion 

people mixed passages from Pearse in the dregs of bad 
porter. 

One-sided and distorted, too, is the mighty and 
mournful epic of Ulysses-, not all the laughter and light 
of our Dublin is here, but it is no mere distorted fresco 
formed of gold and slime. It alone would explain the 
Irish revolution, for it reveals Dublin as none other than 
an Irishman could reveal her, an Irishman who at heart 
loves Dublin, and writes with all the indignation of love, 
the very pulse of this remorseless and brutal protest. 
In the very first chapter, Stephen Dedalus cries that he 
is “ the servant of two masters, the one English, the 
other Italian: the British Imperial State and the Holy, 
Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Again, 
“ Irish art is the cracked looking-glass of a servant.” 
Ireland is “ the old sow that eats her farrow.” Father 
Martindale and Gerald Gould have shaken hands on 
the proposition that Ulysses is a denial of the human 
soul. “ Alas,” wrote the first in his penetrating notice 
in the Dublin Review shortly after the book appeared, 
“ that a man who can write such exquisite prose-music 
when he chooses, who has such erudition, such power 
of original criticism, such subtlety of intuition and 
construction, and the possession of mental energy so 
long-continued, should ever by preference, or because 
by now he cannot help it, immerse his mind in the 
hateful dreams of drunkenness, the phantom world of 
the neuropath; should be at his best when he portrays 
collapse ; should be at his most convincing in his chosen 
line when murmuring through half a hundred pages the 
dream memories of an uneducated woman.” Truly 
since Voltaire and Pascal the sons of Ignatius have not 
had so bad a boy to scold 1 

Gerald Gould adds that Joyce has put everything in 
and left everything out. My old friend in Mooney’s 

43 



Rememhering Sion 

has already been quoted. The very title and the elaborate 
library of interpretation suggest the darkest doubt about 
the permanent value of the book. Btil when we have 
smiled and sworn at the careful weavers of analogies, a 
tremendous bow-string twangs in the hand of the Dublin 
Ulysses, rescuing his soiled Penelope from the lovers who 
have befouled her, but the bow is wielded by Tclcmachus- 
Declalus rather Ulysses-Bloom. Through Joyce’s maze 
of words something more indeed struggles to life thait 
a Dublin gutty’s epic gleaned from a lavatory wall; 
the tangle of the Dublin of that day in the summer of 
1904, a picture in large pari true as all must feel whose 
minds are haunted by those hundreds of Dublin folk 
from Buck Mulligan bathing in the sea with a blas- 
phemous catch and head-dive into the “ snot-green 
splendour ” of the Bay to Mrs. Marion Bloom bathing 
in her sexual reveries without blush or comma. As 
Leopold Bloom sets out on his twenty hours’ journey 
from breakfast and “premeditative defecation” to Paddy 
Dignam’s funeral round the shops, museums, libraries, 
printing ofhees, bars, and brothels of the capital until he 
climbs into bed at night, a cuckold who has found his 
spiritual son, Stephen Dedalus chanting a Black Mass 
amid the ravings of frowsy whores and sodden dreams 
in a madder glory and wealth of dream and word than 
all his pilgrimage till then, past the biscuit tin and scorn 
of the Citizen Cyclops in Barney Kiernan’s low pub, 
past the curiously inadequate Nausica of Sandymount 
Strand — a city emerges fixed for ever from its whirling 
in one amazing memory, a city one must grow to love 
even if one never has known it for all that it is grotesque 
and twisted and scarred. Two stories link these twin 
characters and multitudinous scenes, and who shall at 
the last say that they are ignoble.^ Is it Stephen who 
struggles starward through a sordid home life to the 

44 



Rememhering Sion 

freedom of negation, obsessed by bis mother’s death-bed 
and his proud refusal to bow by even a passing prayer 
to a faith in which he can no longer believe, or, again, 
Leopold, sex-racked and perplexed, overshadowed by 
the loss of his young son, Roddy, who steps over moun- 
tains of ordure and oceans of verbal sewage with a 
burst of poetry into the very brothel as Leopold prepares 
to guide Stephen to the peace of the cabmen’s shelter ? 

And is Joyce so doleful a Rabelais when he can 
revivify Barney Kiernan’s low pub with the immortal 
rant of the citizen, that eloquent echo of the relentless 
and acid propaganda of Arthur GrifEth : 

“ And our eyes are on Europe,” says the citizen. 
“ We had our trade with Spain and the French and with 
the Flemings before those mongrels were pupped. 
Spanish ale in Galway, the winebark on the winedark 
waterway.” 

“ And will again,” says Joe. 

“ And with the help of the Holy Mother of God we 
will again,” says the citizen, clapping his thigh. “ Our 
harbours that were empty will be full again, Queenstown, 
Kinsale, Galway, Blacksod Bay, Ventry in the Idngdom 
of Kerry, Killybegs, the third largest harbour in the 
wide world with a fleet of the masts of the Galway 
Lynches and the Cavan O’Reillys and the O’Kennedys 
of Dublin when the Earl of Desmond could make a 
treaty with the Emperor Charles the Fifth himself. And 
will again,” says he, “ when the first Irish battleship is 
seen breasting the waves with our own flag to the fore, 
none of your Henry Tudor’s harps, no, the oldest flag 
afloat, the flag of the province of Desmond and Thomond, 
three crowns on a blue field, the three sons of Milesius. 

“ And he took the last swig out of tlte pint. . . . Much 
as his bloody life is worth to go down and address his 
tall talk to the assembled multitude in Shanagolden, 

45 



Remembering Sion 

where he daren’t show his nose with the Molly Maguires 
looking for hint to let daylight through him for grabbing 
the holding of an evicted tenant.” 

To read Ulysses is to revisit Dublin, a Dublin not 
wholly gone ; for Joyce, whom the two eminent critics ac- 
cuse of denying the human soul, can hold at least the soul 
of his city in his nets of words. The visit at first sight is 
a sordid one, and to many readers can never be more. 
Not only Dubliners resent the picture. Once Con 
O’Leary had to argue for three months with an English 
journalist to lend him this banned masterpiece and only 
got it in the end by pleading his right as an Irish writer 
and critic, but first he had to swear a solemn oath that 
the two young Manchester journalists about to visit 
Dublin should never be allowed to dip into Ulysses, 
not so much to guard their morals as to preserve their 
minds uncoloured by any dark pictures of Dublin, 
where the owner of Ulysses had spent such full and 
happy days, whose people he loved and whose fame he 
would uphold. The good man was right, for Ulysses 
is strong meat and takes long to digest. Yet when the 
initial nauseation over the ordure has gone and this 
work of genius and affection, never to be repeated and 
imitated literally only by fools, remains with its irony, wit, 
detail, and portrayal of an everlasting day, and those 
who therein passed and struggled and still live on. In 
vain the politician and professional Catholic (and ‘what 
is as bad, the tame Protestant chameleon hob-nobbing 
with the same) will continue to prove that as Ireland is 
the most sincerely Catholic land in the world to-day 
all her humbugs must needs be, in public profession at 
least. Catholic. In vain will all these who have chopped 
and changed and trimmed with every passing wind 
continue to howl that Joyce is the Father of the Sewer 
School, for Joyce has only described the sewer for 
46 



Rememhering Sion 

which they are largely responsible. In truths Joyce is 
the heir of a great tradition to be found in the Religious 
Songs of Connacht and the very Fathers of the Church, 
in %an O’Rahilly, Brian Merriman and many another 
Gaelic poet. One subsequent justification of Joyce’s 
brutality is the Irish Censorship Act, rushed through the 
Dail by aid of every poltroon in Ireland (though the 
Dail to its credit showed more courage than politicians 
generally show by contemptuously telling the sectarian 
organisations which wished to administer the Act to mind 
their own business) and the snuffling time-servers and 
tame Trinity College professors and Pharisees who 
thank God that Dublin is saved from the fate of Sodom 
by a film censor limiting kisses on the silver screen to 
two seconds, smugly oblivious of tlie perversion and 
the festering mental filth beneath this official complacency. 
They would not thank God quite so much if they had 
the sense to ask the nearest policeman. But these are 
only irritating gargoyles on a noble edifice. Let’s back 
to Ulysses before some imported religious maniac reads 
this book in Dublin and goes to his Father the Devil 
with an apoplectic fit. 

Every Irishman who knows Catholicism outside 
Ireland knows that Joyce is right in his onslaught on the 
Jansenist vices that warp and twist it too often there. 
There is the noble temper of Renan in Stephen Dedalus’s 
refusal to kneel even at a death-bed: Je n^ai pas cm 
respectueux pour la foi de tricher avec elle. Ce tiest pas 
ma faute si mes mattres nlavaient enseigni la logique^ et^ 
par leurs argumentations impitoyahles^ avaient fait de mon 
esprit un tranchant deader, fat pris au sirieux ce qtion 
raa appris^ scolastique^ regies du syllogisme^ thiologie^ 
hebreu^ fat etc un hon eleven je ne saurais itre damne 
pour cela. For Joyce has also the final and deeper vision. 
Not for nothing has he been trained by the Jesuits and 

47 



Rememhering Sion 

reared on Aquinas, even if to-day he no longer takes 
them as guides. On the Judgment Day perhaps Satan 
will condemn the life of a large portion of present-day 
Ireland out of the mouths of Dedalus and Bloom. His 
brief will be incomplete, nay, fatal, for some Archangel 
rising shall open Ulysses at random, saying: Here was 
integrity, courage and Iruth. Here alone was the world- 
shattering Word spoken, in Dublin, a city as eternal as 
Rome and as brave in mind as Athens.” And Saint Finn- 
barr slightly spoil the fine cficct by shouting indignantly: 

Perhaps, but a Cork man wrote it anyway! ” Ignatius 
Loyola will ofler James Joyce a silver sword and the 
Dumb Ox of Sicily roar his praise until Patrick judging 
all the Irish, poor man, on his promised throne for which 
he baffled an angel in prayer, descends and tucking 
Ulysses under his arm beckons Joyce to head Patrick’s 
particular millions through the gates of Eternal Peace, 
while smug on their beds of fire below shall roast all the 
professional politicians and censors of Eire for ever and 
ever and ever, smug and smug and smugger on the 
hob of Hell itself. Amen. 

Which brings me back to the dust I found on the 
roads and roofs of El Dorado. 


48 



FOUR 

I N swiftly changing London of to-day where often it 
you neglect one street for a month or sOj a row of sky- 
scrapers meets your eyes and another landmark beloved 
of Roman or Norman and venerable to the wise passing 
look of Dr. Johnson has vanished with no requiem but 
an orchestra of pneumatic drills, amid some quick gleam 
of London's beauty, say, as some silvered fish of a 
Zeppelin hovers in the evening sky between the Byzantine 
tower of Westminster Cathedral and a great star over 
the roofs of Millbank, there are moments when I am again 
in the Dublin I knew of old : 

I loved her from my boyhood^ 

She to me was as a fairy city of the heart* . . . 

The wit of some Cockney tram or bus conductor bears 
me on a magic carpet to Sanclymount Green and on to the 
Martello Tower that overlooks the Strand. For in my 
first years in Dublin the little single-deck Sandymount 
tram often brought me home, and the conductor had a 
beard so snowy and tapering, a face so reposeful and 
gentle that his name was inevitable: “ Saint Joseph." 
Yet every time the little tram touched the Green, he 
downed a pint, and the night the man from Glasgow 
complained of the high fare, Saint Joseph told him 
roundly to go back to Glasgow by a fiery route and not 
be robbed- . • . There is the Strand sweeping in its 
ridgy brownness towards the red fortress of the Pigeon 
House, past the wall where the sailor tried to teach me 
to swim, and I floated in a circle on one finger for all 
D 49 



Remembering Sion 

his pains, and Merrion Gates clanging to let llic trains 
whistle by with while clouds over the sea-wall towards 
Blackrock, where Joseph Clarke and I went swimming 
and cursed the brute with his gun and the shrieking gull 
which had fallen with blood-stained breast on the sands 
after he had fired . . . and the tide surging in, white- 
horsed and singing . . . and a golden moon over all the 
roofs of Sandymount ... or a golden sun at dawn near 
the wall by the Castle, and the little bearded man with 
the Francis Thompson eyes going into Mass early every 
morning before Saint Joseph punches his ticket for a 
passage to a busy office on the quays, with a jolly bellman 
clang-clang-clanging outside, and the little bearded man 
within sells whole streets of houses and warehouses of 
furniture with decisive hammer and chant. 

Down from the Strand slopes the road to our house 
and the house next door, where the old Fenian and his 
son and his daughter-in-law live. An iron and courteous 
man like all those of his creed in his generation. . . . Ten 
years in prison for a deed his brother did for Ireland’s 
sake, and hoping still for the fall of the Castle, red-faced 
and suavely genial and a wind from the history books in 
his quiet words : “ I am tired of all their leagues and 
clubs and talk of Irish industries and language, keen and 
all as the young fellows are. Leagues! I was reared in 
a hard school, and I only believe in the One League.” 
In his little drawing-room, he broods, hoping, stubborn 
old Flenry Flood, remembering the day at Manchester 
when England’s cities quaked and howled at the Fenian 
name, revolvers spitting over the heads of encircling 
mobs, and three dying with an immortal prayer : “ God 
Save Ireland.” “ James Stephens, the Head Centre, was a 
good man . . . yes,” said the quiet voice, “ they blamed 
him for not fighting in Sixty-Five and Sixty-Seven, but 
that is a long time ago ... he had no arms and no 

50 



Remembering Sion 

money, and I do not think them right to blame him.” 
(To the Manchester Martyrs’ Anniversary Celebrations 
organised by the Freedom Clubs, cloaking the Irish 
Republican Brotherhood stirring once more, came this 
old Fenian and heard Pearse speak, Pearse who did not 
know the Fenians whom he had sought in the moon- 
light but never found were now before him, heard 
Pearse speak and was moved to say: “ A fine young man 
with brave words, but does he mean them? He does? 
That’s well.” Out in 1916 on the quiet this old Fenian 
marched, came home calmly, and “ and glory be to God, 
enough documents to hang every one in the house in a 
box of his upstairs, never saying a word where he was 
going, and never a word when he returned.”) 

Loud knochings at the door in the early morning, and 
the sporty milkman has halted his jingling cart and 
dashing horse. The horsy play-boy with kid gloves 
and dancing eyes and a red-brick face who saved a 
debtor from suicide when he caught him with a revolver 
to his head : “ I gave him dog’s abuse and sensible 
advice and told him the money he owed us all wasn’t 
worth the risk of wearing out his little antimacassar on 
a warm grid-iron with the Old Boy for company. So 
he made me out a cheque, and let the rest of his creditors 
go whistle.” He pours out the milk with a generous 
tilley and says he had to build a whole row of houses for 
the poor as a penance from the Church Street Fathers for 
all the water he confessed putting in his milk, but the holy 
men haven’t got him to take the pledge himself or keep 
away from horses, fast or slow, on any racecourse. . . . 

Rat-tat-tat, and the man with the fish is on the door- 
step, a stinldng fish he brought us : “I kept it specially 
for you, ma’am ! ” His pink-rimmed eyes blink and an 
odour of beer goes from his little mouth and dirty yellow 
bristle of a moustache through the hall ... an anthrax 

51 



Remembering Sion 

under his arm, but he feels as strong as a lion and will 
bring us the pick of the Bay every week. . . . The man 
with the basket of apples is next with his plausible tongue : 
that basket hit a recruiting sergeant in its day and he has 
done six months for that violent deed, though he had 
to join the Militia once in a way for the money, but the 
basket bears only the apples of Ireland, for none others 
will he have but our own little islanders. . . . Sam comes 
from the grocery near the Green, gap-toothed and a- 
squint, waving his hands at the wasps in summer when 
they smell the porter off him. . . . His auburn hair burns 
with splendour as he hands over six Guinness into the 
house over the way, with a loving tipsy smile to the 
glaring housewife, and a shout that shakes the windows : 
“ Here they are, six of ’em ! ” . . . The beggar woman 
knocks, the loquacious one who gets so much tea from 
the land Protestant lady round the corner and lives in 
a room where, saving your presence, the rats ate the back 
out of her best skirt, . . . She takes the tea from the kind 
lady and leaves all the tracts and Bibles she gets along 
with it for the rats if they want pious reading. 

My father comes in, fairyland in his eyes, and humming 
an Irish air, his dark beard waving, Gaelic books and 
mystic tomes under his arm. He leaves three copies of 
the Irish Nation on the table and vanishes into his study 
upstairs. A wave of romance and life and the new 
currents stirring in the country comes from the columns. 
. . . P. S. O’Hegarty has started another controversy. . . . 
He scalps the Socialists or announces a new series of a 
hundred articles on history or books or his pet, physical 
force, and in the correspondence columns angry contro- 
versialists howl questions and challenges at P. S. O’H., 
“ Sarsfield,” “ Lucan,” ” Landen,” and the whole half- 
dozen P. S. O’Hegartys. Notes from the provinces and 
afar. . . . Seamus excavates more blue books. . . . One, 

5 ^ 



Rememhering Sion 

Fred Ryaiij returned from Egypt, wars upon all physical 
forces and Nationalists and Gaelic Leaguers and clergy-- 
men and Marxian Socialists with the utmost courtesy and 
persuasiveness. . . . Irial is his pen name as all the 
world knows. He hurls his weekly javelin at Arthur 
Griffith, his former ally. . . . The Gaels like him not. . . , 
The Socialists bristle weekly and hurl shibboleths at him. 
. . . He is a militant agnostic and it is said his father took 
the utmost pains with his upbringing to produce this 
result. , . . This week he crosses swords with P. S. 
O'Hegarty, who has mobilised Sarsfield and Landen ’’ 
and Lucan ” to squelch him; ” Begod, I wish I was 
as sure of any one thing as Tom Macaulay is of every- 
thing.^' ... I look with impatience at the riches locked 
behind the Gaelic letters and feel their beauty, and wonder 
whether I shall ever learn that language, for it is still a 
mystery, and I have only ten words and in my heart hate 
the arrogance of the Idlted Gaels and fierce-eyed men in 
tweeds who roll out their Irish conscious of knowledge 
or mimicking my alleged English accent, for not all the 
Gaels are as kind as Padraic O'Conaire or as courtly as 
Michael Breathnach. . . . 

I wander afield in El Dorado, through her squares and 
by-streets and towards the barrows on the quays, on to 
George Webb's bookshop with its stacked piles of tomes, 
down slums which sicken me and bursts of wild speech 
startling to my sedate ears. . . . About this time I dis- 
covered the Socialists and listened to the orators under 
the shade of the Bank of Ireland. A wild-eyed Dublin 
working-man always attended these meetings and 
gnashed his teeth; “Listen to them. Telling me that 
an Englishman is my brother!" Between the Sinn 
Feiners and the Socialists it was war to the knife, and this 
wild-eyed questioner followed the Socialists everywhere, 
growling his chorus. Arthur Griffith down in Fownes 

51 



Rememhering Sion 

Street will have none of this foreign humbug and inter- 
nationalism and Immanitarianism and universalism, and 
his mad blue-eyed echo sees to it that the message shall 
be spread : Carthago delenda est. But the Dubliners 
hardly stop to listen to the fierce debate between two 
insignificant and cranky cliques. There is no room for 
novelties in this placid, easy-going, melancholy Dublin, 
with its casual faith in John Redmond, a half-hope of 
Home Rule some time or other, a half-regret for the 
Irish language, a wilderness of slums and lodging-houses, 
only lighted by the Oireachtas in the Rotunda when the 
Gaels flock in with pipes playing and talk the heads off 
the sceptics for a week. Then indeed another Dublin 
emerges, a Dublin yet to shake the world, a Dublin that 
is always there, but a Dublin for all its fire and faith 
on the brink of despair in these days, so mean-spirited 
and so cynical and so provincial to the core is this other 
and greater Dublin. One day in O’Connell Street I 
see John Redmond unveil the Parnell Monument and 
bear away no kindly memory or great phrase from his 
polished but colourless oration ; all I remember is a grey, 
cold face, a cloth falling, and a solitary cry from the 
crowd: “We have a higher aim! ” So much for the 
Leader of the Irish Race at home and abroad. He was 
more alive in the caricatures of the irreverent Leprachaun., 
hooked-nosed, futile and patlietic. The sharp pen in 
Fownes Street scratched away at Redmond every week 
and nearly scratched up some sympathy for lois victim, 
so living were the words and so remote his victim from 
a place in the heart and life of youth. That is among 
those who were influenced by Arthur Griffith; the vast 
mass of Dubliners echoed the cry of the hour : “ Trust the 
Old Party and the Old Leaders and Home Rule Next 
Year.” 

After the writings of Connolly fell into my hands and 

14 



Remembering Sion 

1 had had several arguments with the Socialists, I was 
far more interested in Socialism than in the Old Party 
and the Old Leaders. I decided to look up the Socialists 
and ask them a few questions. Into an upstairs room in 
Parliament Street I walk with a parcel of groceries under 
my arm, an aroma of coffee from the bulky brown 
parcel. I rejoiced to carry parcels under my arm since 
I had heard botli in Navan and in Dublin that it was 
considered by the respectable an awful thing to do. I 
was amused once in Grafton Street to scandalise a most 
revolutionary poet with my brown parcel. He saw it 
suddenly and came down from the clouds and edged 
right into the Cafe Cairo with horror in his dreamy 
eyes. At least the Socialists would know better than 
that, and it was my intention to ask them what exactly 
was the difference between this revolutionary Socialism 
they talked of and the Socialism of the Fabian Essays. 
The great beard of Karl Marx on a pamphlet fascinated me 
more than the explanation of Karhs doctrines inside. 
A Socialist catechism I read reminded me painfully of 
that green-covered book in Westland Row and not that 
very fine little blue-covered book I shall mention anon. 
Round the table sat half a dozen men already known to 
me by sight. Comrade Lyng was there widi bowler 
a-tilt, red tie a-slant, wistful face and flowing moustaches, 
a mighty haranguer of the multitude, and the deadly 
antagonist of the wild-eyed man who would not have 
any Englishman for his brother. I asked for pamphlets. 
Over the mantelpiece, Karl Marx glowers behind his 
beard, a benign glower. Comrade Lyng searches in a 
cupboard. Under a mellow light emerges the handsome 
beard and glowing eyes of William O'Brien: he is tlie 
only man present who jokes, grimly, with a quiet smile. 
He talks to some one beside him about a tremendous 
row in progress between Connolly and Daniel de Leon. 

55 



Rememhering Sion 

The last name is familiar to me on various pamphlets, 
which have fired the wild-eyed man to furthei protest: 
Englishmen aic bad enough without bringing in a lot of 
New York Jew-men to coriupt the Catholic city of 
Dublin, a gang of toe-rags who want to destroy whatever 
industries the bloody English have left us and set up a 
World Republic with the help of the Grand Orient and 
every bowsie from James Street, Monto and the Coombe. 
Dc Leon is a forerunnei of the Syndicalists and his 
influence had drawn Connolly to the United States. 
Just now Connolly and he have fallen out, it appears, 
and he has accused Connolly of being the secret agent of 
the Jesuits sent into the only True Fold of the Universal, 
Holy, Apostolic Marxist Chuich to deceive the Very 
Elect. Comrade Lyng and I talk about religion and 
Socialism, and an argument flares up between two 
present: in the end the Church drives all the Socialists 
out, but how can any one object since the Church has no 
room for the Revealed Truth of the Materialist Con- 
ception of History. In the intervals of argument, 1 ask 
Comrade Lyng what the Dublin Socialists have in 
common with the Fabian Society, and a look of fire and 
pity from him and a gurgle somewhere in the dark beyond 
the mellow light tell me the answer before I have finished 
the question. The argument goes on. “ Catholic 
Ireland,” says a working-man far back in the shade, 
“ where they tell us we are slandering the country when 
we point to the people rotting in their tenements, to the 
women driven to sell their bodies for food on the streets 
and Canal banks of this holy city, to the patriots who 
think any working-man can live on sixteen shillings a 
week as that old cod, ex-Lord Mayor Tim Harrington, 
the Party light with the beer-shark’s dial, told the 
assembled multitude.” The voice is as bitter as the face 
is grey and lined, and there is little joy in the squinting 
56 



Rememhering Sion 

eyes as they come into the range of lamplight. The voice 
wails and rasps into a Faith as world-wide and tenacious 
as that of the Church, as fiery and as electric as that 
revolutionary Nationalism it seeks to brand as an illusion. 

Apart from William O’Brien, Comrade Lyng is the 
most sympathetic. They answer my questions and tell 
me books to read. I depart with several pamphlets after 
Comrade Lyng has evaded my pressing questions as to 
how and when he is going to have his revolution. He 
tells me he cannot name any date, and though he is a 
revolutionary Socialist having nothing in common with 
other milk-and-water organisations, there may be no 
violent revolution at all since history records that ruling 
classes sometimes abdicate through wisdom or weakness. 
He quotes Karl Marx, whose face over the mantel, 
omniscient and aloof, approves. One name and one 
presence pervades the little room: Connolly away in 
the States. He is the master spirit who has called and held 
these men together, but somehow they lack his reality 
and fire. There is something sterile about the group with 
their long phrases culled from their God over the mantel 
and their aloofness both from the bright-garbed Gaels 
in kilt and classroom and the wild-eyed working-man 
who dogs and curses all their meetings. Only Lyng 
and William O’Brien seem conscious that they live in 
Dublin; the rest are a sect conning pamphlets and that 
long row of Marxist works in the bookcase yonder. The 
Irish language makes them smile, and again they smile at 
the ideal of a free Ireland. Griffith could write and talk 
them all under the table. Yet the voice in the darkness 
who hates the priests and patriots somehow is real, as 
real as the dank riverside and stinldng tenements, the 
cap-crowned, livid, hopeless, half-fed workers with lined 
faces and rotting teedh and casts in their eyes, their 
swarming children and betimes drunken wives, no book 

•)! 



Rememhering Sion 

worth reading in their sorry homes and Httlc romance 
save a picture of Parnell or Emmet or a red light before 
a statue of the Virgin or Christ. What joy or wisdom 
has the Socialist God over the mantel for them? But 
the Socialists are right in this too : what change or hope 
for them when a Green Flag flics over the Castle at the 
end of the street? ... I lead more and moie of the 
propaganda and literatuie of Socialism^ and it leaves its 
mark upon my mind. Sometimes 1 go to Socialist 
meetings down in the Ancient Conceit Rooms. The wild- 
eyed working-man is therCj heckling and denouncing and 
waxing wrother and wrother. A venerable gentleman 
in black also frequents these meetings much. His views, 
though emphatic, arc unccitain in general on most sub- 
jects but one. He always rises to start the discussion with 
the rhetorical question; ‘‘Who are the two greatest 
enemies of the human race, Mr. Cliairman?'’ This 
question he always answers himself : “ England and 
Rome I ” Why he never clearly explained, for the rest of 
his speech dealt with other matters. At last the ex- 
asperated Socialists spiked his guns by putting up a 
questioner to ask and answer his own question. He with 
undoubted eloquence gave the room to understand that 
the greatest enemy of the human race was the man who 
had asked his question. So he continued to ask it until 
James Connolly came back to Dublin. That night he 
asked it for the last time, for Connolly turned on him 
with biting phrases, saying he himself in one sense was 
a most determined anti-clcrical, but there was another 
form of anti-clericalism which made all decent men blush, 
and the old gentleman belonged to the second school. 
A notable speaker there was Mrs. Sheehy-SkefHngton, 
bowling over the enemies of Woman Suffrage: she 
used to predict that when political freedom in any form 
came her real battles would begin, a promise she kept. 

58 



Rememhering Sion 

All through the Irish Nation was fighting a losing 
battle. Sometimes Leonard came with knitted forehead 
and his bird-face clouded. He is alive to the secret 
campaign against die paper which curtails the advertise- 
ments and revenue from the printing business and deftly 
pulled strings which whisk the Irish Nation off the news- 
agents" counters and scare off possible supporters. . . . 
Orthodox Sinn Feiners shy at the space given to the 
Labour organisations to state their case against the 
narrow views of Arthur Griffith. . . . Between the Irish 
Nation and Sinn Fein there is friction and even animosity. 
... A gieat wave of caution comes from confessionals 
and pulpits and visiting clergymen dropping gentle hints 
and sweeps many Gaelic Leaguers off the subscription 
list of the Irish Nation, ... It is unheard of to criticise 
the clergy so openly and flirt with theosophy and 
modernism. . . . Socialism too. . . . Think what you 
like hut don"t write it. . . . It will be all the same in a 
hundred years. . . . Ink drums and paper bales become 
a problem^ and the wages, already small, shrink more. . . , 
Leonard’s face clears suddenly and he laughs and tells us 
that the new linotype man has been persuaded to join the 
St. Vincent de Paul Society by the other printers, but 
first they had to take him out into the backyard and teach 
him how to bless himself. Leonard goes back to Temple 
Lane singing : 

The man who ktsse.'i a pretty girl, 

And goes and tells his mother ^ 

Ought to have hts lips cut off 
And never kiss another I 

One day we moved from Sandymount to a tall and 
roomy house in Lower Mount Street, and settled down 
there with Leonard and Michael and Sean and Seamus 
and my Aunt Bridget and others in due season. 



FIVE 


T he great house wiLh its basement and lofty rooms 
was on the main road to Dunleary, witliin a step 
of Merrion Square, where a stand of jarveys waited for 
their fares, stating at doctors’ brass plates across the tram- 
lines in the day-time and talked about pints on moonlight 
nights, hurling full-bodied adjectives and snatches of 
commettt and tittle-tattle over the heads of the passers- 
by. A short walk down some dusty side streets brought 
you to the slums or hospitals or boarding-houses or the 
Canal witlt its trees and barges. On Sundays there was 
St. Andrew’s Church at Westland Row, with the saints on 
the walls the immortal Edward Martyn had had painted, 
gentle-faced saints with Irish names to astonish even the 
learned in hagiography. I found no Saint Desmond there, 
but to my sister’s delight she found a Saint Maeve 
on the walls. A few paces onward up Leinster Street 
and Clare Street and there was the Edward of legend 
living over his tobacconist’s shop just round the corner 
from the Kildare Street Club. Dublin just then loved 
him, for George Moore had begun to make him immortal 
and several others with Itim. It seemed George was 
bringing coals to Newcastle, and many were the jokes 
about George’s great crusade to save the Irish language, 
although Edward was famous for falling asleep at the 
Gaelic League meetings when he in his turn was saving 
the Irish language. But Edward’s pictures every Sunday 
appealed to a wider audience than George’s pcn-pictures. 
A rattle of money in the collection boxes, and the great 
sea flowed around the pictures of the gentle-faced saints, 



Remembering Sion 

the great sea of the poor of Dublin worshipping, a sea 
of bent and grey and bobbing heads, flowing out to its 
one-room homes at the close of the Mass and wearing 
out the feet of some statue with the pathetic and passing 
touch of its many fingers, a sea which moaned its hopes 
and its visions, its sins and its degradation into the ears 
of the priests waiting in the confessionals every Saturday, 
a sea of wan, lined and scarred faces, a sea of smells and 
pitiful raiment railed off from the prosperous Catholics 
of Merrion Square. Even from the pulpit came this 
revelation of the Dublin underworld so close at hand, 
balanced on the finest edge of Heaven and Hell ; from 
the midst of the stately and ordered eloquence of the 
preacher a hideous light blared with sudden terrible 
words on the life of the slums behind Merrion Square: 
the night before there had been a murder, some drink- 
sodden husband had sent the soul of his wife whizzing 
through her slit throat. The contrasts of Ireland are 
sudden and terrible : placid, comfortable Merrion Square, 
this grey and patient sea of the poor of Dublin, and 
then a plash of blood and bad whisky, and an escape 
to some world wider than a one-roomed home. . . . 
The ripple in the sea subsided, and for many Sundays 
again mere rhetoric and text flowed on; but what 
wonder that the eyes of the preachers were sad and 
their faces white and stern and wrinkled and no 
reflection of Edward’s saints.? 

But there is no need to linger in the grey world behind 
Westland Row. Back to the great squares or to the 
heart of the city or the colours of Grafton Street or 
the trams which sail to Dunleary and the Bay. Dublin 
hardly notices the slums, although one Jim Larkin is 
moving among them and banding the men and women 
in the factories together, and some years ahead there 
will be scenes outside Westland Row Station when the 

6t 



Remcmhering Sion 

politicians of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the 
clergy and a screaming mob of the Dublin poor storm 
outside, united from very mixed motives in a protest 
against the Strike Leaders’ move to send the children 
away from their stepmother of a city while the strike 
lasts. But that is all in the future. Just now everything 
is as grey and as colourful, as dark and as light as it 
always is in Dublin, and there is no very definile sign 
that to-day will not be exactly like to-morrow. 

We settled into Mount Street and talked, mostly in 
Irish, of the New Ireland that was to be. Despite the 
slums so near at hand and my father’s struggle to keep 
his paper afloat against boycott and apathy and the deft 
strings and vinegar whispers, these were happy days, 
and for me they were summed up in books, in the 
language revival and a voluntary silence at meals. I 
could not speak Irish with any confidence nor under- 
stand much more than an odd phrase, for I was in the 
early twilight of O’Growney still and Sean and Michael 
and Joseph Clarke generally conversed in fluent Irish 
until Seamus devastated them with his fierce and humorous 
outbursts and satirical asides. Generally my father sat 
lost in thought until some remark stirred him to argu- 
ment and reminiscence: Swinburne in the Pines near 
Putney Common shut out from the human voice until 
Theodore Watts Dunton spoke to him, then the deep 
music and thunder of his speech filled the room . . . 
Legends of the South . . . the Devil behind a bush 
whistling The. Pretty Girl Milking her Cow to delay the 
priest going on a sick call, and a bad name for that 
Gaelic tune from that out . . . the moral of Johnny 
O’Nale’s bank-note . . . the note issued by the local 
bank and cashed after a wrangle between a thrifty man 
and a generous man after they had done their business 
on a market-day . . . they had their glass of whisky 



Remembering Sion 

. . . and next day the bank broke and the Johnny 
O’Nale note wasn’t worth twopence. . . . Visitors from 
North and South who had passed through the Irish 
Nation office. . . . Standish O’Grady handing in his 
new articles of the commune he wanted the Dublin clerks 
and other workers to start on modest subscriptions 
among the hills with an eagle soaring overhead and a 
bed of roses for them all. . . . Pet scheme of Standish 
O’Grady to avoid the violent revolutions he sensed long 
before the upheavals of 1913 and 1916. . . . Fantasy 
and blinding flashes of a warning from the silver-haired 
Tory Communist seer building his house with his own 
hands up on Howth. . . . A. E. down in the Hermetic 
Society. ... A visit from Larkin. . . . Letters from 
the clergy of advice and blame. . . . This new Irish 
book . . . that new Irish book. 

Behind the table stood his bookcase with a stretch 
of deep green and gold on the upper shelf, Irish Texts 
Society volumes and Hardiman’s Irish Minstrelsy shading 
downwards into the yellow and black of the Gaelic 
League publications underneath. . . . Canon O’Leary’s 
folk-worlds of history and legend . . . several rows of 
the Temple Classics . . . Herbert Spencer in a lone 
corner , . , Bedell’s Irish Bible . . , with a black 

scrawling inscription back and front . . . Matthew 
Arnold ... an olive Shakespeare ... a citron Daudet 
. . . Bibles in divers tongues . . . Schopenhauer. Among 
the books which stirred me and gleamed in Temple 
blue and gold through the glass (like the blue-bound 
volumes of Tolstoy that Seamus lent me with a quizzical 
smile from time to time, but sometimes gripped tight 
beneath his arm with an emphatic proclamation that this 
volume would be inflicted by him upon no one) was 
Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus, It was ffiis book in my 
pocket which highly amused the Christian Brothers at 

61 



Remembering Sion 

Westlaiid Row whither I now went to wrestle with the 
Intermediate texts and convince my teachers that beyond 
writing I had little interest in much else, though they 
did ihcir best to win me over to mathematics like jheir 
foierunners in the Kennington Road and on Denmark 
Hill, finding me very sound, however, in religious know- 
ledge as befitted the winner of six fine certificates for that 
away in London. 

The Westland Row Brothers never succeeded in 
teaching me Iiish, indeed they nearly succeeded in making 
me hate it for the rest of my days. This was not their 
fault. The grotesque and now happily dead cramming 
mill and grinder of minds called the Intermediate was 
responsible. The Christian Brothers were justly famous 
for their Irish grammars and text-books and their zeal 
in the language revival when that cause had few friends. 
But to gain results under the Intermediate system every 
subject had to be learned by heart, with the result that 
the majority of victims hated the sight of books for the 
rest of their days, although they mastered every text and 
knew every subject amazingly well until the examination 
lists gave the signal that Shakespeare and Milton and 
Racine were well and truly “ done ” for ever. Under 
the Intermediate system, for instance, especially in West- 
land Row where the harassed teachers had to drive a 
very mixed collection of minds through an appallingly 
formidable programme against time, languages were 
taught on the peculiar system of “ doing ” texts so 
thoroughly that each pupil learned all the ancient and 
modern tongues by spelling them into their memories. 
In Westland Row I have sat under a lay teacher and 
loathed the very look of the Irish text as he laboriously 
translated the lush word by word, mumbling the pro- 
nunciation which he knew quite well, but his ear too 
intent on the bell and his eye leaping ahead to reach the 
64 



Remetnhering Sion 

point he must reach so that the text might be crammed 
to weariness again and again throughout the year. His 
pupils wrote in the English translation word by word 
under the text and learned it by heart It was amusing 
enough to the purists to trap the poor victims in French 
and learn that horse ’’ was “ c-h-e-v-a-l/' but in 
Irish it was even more ludicrous when the long rows of 
asperated and eclipsed lines sometimes escaped from the 
memory on to the tongue. Exercises in translation and 
composition were set at random and there was little 
scope for the teacher to pay individual attention to his 
pupils and fire their imaginations. And in Westland 
RoWj perhaps more than elsewhere in the Christian 
Brothers' schools, the homes of not a few of the pupils 
were poor soil in which to plant enthusiasm and culture, 
for the mark of bad food and poor housing were plain 
on their faces and tongues. This was evident although 
the past roll of the Brothers* pupils bore many famous 
names in the commercial, literary and general life of 
Dublin. The Brothers educated poor and comfortable 
alike, and even made no distinction in creed, for there 
were Jews on the Westland Row roll most courteously 
and scrupulously educated by the Brothers. During 
religious instruction or prayers, on a pleasant smile or 
nod from the Brother in charge, the Jews retired — - 
objects of envy or curiosity to some of us, but strangely 
enough never of the keen wit of their class-mates. The 
Brothers were partly responsible for this as the strap had 
been known to go vigorously into action on the un- 
happy hands of the too-inquiring pupil who slyly 
examined a quiet little Jewish boy upon the plot and 
moral of The Merchant of V'enice, The Brothers when 
I knew them tried their best to make the Interxnediate 
mill as human as it could be made. One dark-haired 
and enthusiastic Brother who afterwards returned to 
K 65 



Rememhcring Sion 

ordinal y life, as was not so uncommon in this famous 
semi-lay order, since its members weie unbound by 
siiict and peipctual vows, once took me aside during 
class hours and read me Canon Oleary’s historical 
novel in Irish, which gives a vivid picture of the Danish 
invaders and the iriumph of Brian at Clontarf. lie 
gave me wise encouragement to struggle ahead with 
Irish and other things in spite of the quaint methods 
the examination system imposed on the school. He 
talked kindly of my fatlier and his paper, dicn more 
and more outspoken in its ciiticism of the political 
attitude of the Bishops and the general attitude of the 
clergy to free discussion. This dark-haired enthusiast 
spoke much also of Patrick Pearse, who had passed 
through Westland Row with his brother Willie, after- 
wards teaching there. Later, I was to hear Pearsc’s 
affectionate and amusing memoiies of Westland Row or 
to bear a remembrance to him from some one of the 
Brothers I met in the street. And I was always glad to 
bear these messages, for they unlocked Pearse’s memory 
and reminiscent tongue. 

Sometimes in these hours on the benches at Westland 
Row 1 stared up at the glass and wood partitions and 
thought of Brother Oswald away in his little classroom 
looking out on pond and tall trees waving between the 
porch under his window, and chestnut horse galloping 
wildly under an avenue of wind-bowed greenery, tapping 
the board before him with his willow stick and ‘‘ Ut 
you fellow you!^’ Or Brother Jerome in Kennington 
Road reading out a stirring romance of Andreas Hofer 
to us, or Brother Hyacinth tactfully explaining the ins 
and outs of the theory of evolution, or Brother Edmund 
driven to fury when we annoyed him, or that rasping 
Brother George whose very smile was a menace, or that 
quite other Brother George in Kennington whose smile 
66 



Remembering Sion 

was a key to the heart. At Westland Row there was one 
grey-facecl Superior who took it for granted;, it seemed 
to me, that God had made Ireland as red as the rest of 
the British Empire on the big map in the classroom; 
betimes he insinuated, or to my Sinn Fein sensitiveness 
appeared to insinuate, that Ireland was only a part of 
the United Kingdom freed by Daniel O’Connell and 
now destined to bring England back to the Faith and 
then China to the Faith, and region after region there- 
after. He had no malice, and corrected himself with a 
wry smile once as I looked what I felt at his remark 
that the "‘Union Jack” was “our flag.” He added 
soothingly, as if it were hardly worth mentioning and 
very self-evident, that of course the harp on the green 
was our flag too. A quiet colourless man wrapped in 
himself or his meditations, perhaps he never really cared 
what flag ever flew anywhere so long as his pupils got 
through the Intermediate with credit and those under- 
neath all the flags on earth managed to save their souls. 
In our case this was effected hy word-perfection in the 
verbose, green-covered and ill-printed Maynooth Cate- 
chism. This book aroused very violent emotions in me 
from the first moment I saw it. My aflTections had been 
earlier given to a well-printed, concise- worded and blue- 
covered book which had won me my six fine certificates. 
On stylistic grounds alone I was all for the little blue 
book. 

Not that the Brothers relied upon the green book as 
our main guide-book to Heaven, however much we 
crammed it on the eve of religious examinations. The 
lives of the saints were also read to us. Sometimes 
they were lives of the saints in the good old style where 
ten words were always used where one might have 
sufficed. I classed these goody-goody ligmaroles of 
self-torturing pietists with the little green book. But I 

67 



Rememhering Sion 

found as weird a fascination in them as I had found in 
the similar collection in the dusty old leather box in 
London years before: the Brothers were never as lurid 
in their reading as these old musty books : there in that 
musty box were the devils who came in the night to 
strangle those who had forgotten to say their prayers 
and to spare sleepy sinners who had rolled into the 
blankets with one drowsy ^‘Hail Mary/' and good 
cardinals who entered the houses of Italian noblemen to 
point at nude statues and pictures with reproachful 
requests that those poor people should be clothed in the 
name of purity and charity alike, and saints sin-stricken 
who counted their self-inflicted lice like beads and 
dragged themselves in the dust before statues of the 
Virgin, and howling Hells with bats and adders flitting 
through clouds of sulphur around the lost souls in an 
ocean of deathless fire. 

The Brothers, however, were not Jansenists or Puritans 
but skilful moulders of the material that Dublin had sent 
them, and in that material lurked all the violent contrasts 
of Ireland. Sometimes an echo of the Rabelaisian vocabu- 
lary of the slums rose in playground and classroom, or 
in some sudden gleam a flash of that deep instinct of the 
Irish which sends them into revolutions and hermits’ 
cells or wafts the towers of some cathedral above a nest 
of slums or crowns history’s vigil with a glow of red 
and purple, a cross of aeroplanes above Dublin Bay and 
thundering cannon. All this the Brothers watched and 
moulded, the restless modern world a preoccupation 
with them and the dangerous books to be found in years 
to come. One Brother Walsh in this last matter had 
more sense than all the Censorship Boards and Free 
State politicians who have made a bid for popularity by 
shrieking against lubricity and atheism. He shook his 
head at us and told us we should undoubtedly be happier 



Remembering Sion 

if we obeyed Mother Church and followed his own 
urgent advice and left all books against faith and morals 
alone. The Church would give learned men permission 
for giave and proper reasons to consult such works. 
But he supposed we would, despite all warnings, read 
such works. Sighing, and with more eloquent appeals 
to leave such alluring territory unexplored, he said his 
wise word. This book complex vexed him sorely, and 
he chose his speech and knitted his brows. If we would 
read these unnamed books, then let us always read both 
sides and take no printed word for an infallible Pope. 
Then he went back to his life of the saint for the day, 
and dwelt in the Middle Ages once more with his pupils. 

Which brings me back to my copy of Sartor Resartus. 
In the science hall a senior pupil, an Intermediate Ex- 
hibitioner and star who had a real love of books which 
lighted up two big amber eyes under great bushes of 
brow, saw me check the height of some liquid in a 
measuring-glass by aid of one of Carlyle’s white margins. 
Some time after the Exhibitioner and the Brother in 
charge sought me out, highly amused, and cross-examined 
me on the pleasure I found in such a work. I was famous 
for my knowledge of words, for I could give most rare 
and recondite ones with meaning complete from any text 
in an instant even as Quinn smiled a baffled, whimsical 
smile and I whispered it in his ear or the Brother cut 
short Patsy Farrell’s jocose evasions and turned to me. 
It was the words and odd phrases and the tumult of 
Carlyle that stirred me vaguely: I loved his thunder 
even when his lightnings passed me by. After my 
cross-examination, both the Brother and the Exhibitioner 
advised me to give Carlyle a rest until I reached the 
mature age of eighteen, when they assured me I should 
find the book very helpful and more than a plunder- 
house for words, but even then not to ape the accents 

d? 



Rememhering Sion 

of Thoinay in ordinary conversation and correspondence, 
there being perhaps more smoke than light in his tempests. 
This Exhibitioner and I often had long discussions on 
history, for I fiercely annotated all my history books 
wherever it seemed to me that the Whig dogs were 
getting the best of it. I still recalled the green flag with 
harp I had carried over my shoulder on Mafcking night, 
and Old Mac pointing to the many flags from London 
windows and growling to all my questions on Peace 
night: ‘‘ To-morrow they will tell you the Boers have 
been beaten, but don’t you believe a word of it ! The 
scoundrels have thrown dust in the eyes of the world 
again. They never won a war yet, lake that from me. 
And never started one without a pack of Irish fools to 
help them.” Sinn Fein propaganda guided my pencil 
over the field of Waterloo, and between classes in 
Westland Row I took part in many arguments, always 
remembering the best facts and most crushing retorts 
on the way home. It delighted Brother Walsh to gather 
his pupils round him in recreation hours and encourage 
them to debate whatever stirred in their minds from the 
books they read or public questions or the saints he read 
aloud in the noonday hour or some case of conscience. 
He was always such an impartial chairman that even 
now I could not label him or state what side he favoured 
in the then obscure controversy of Sinn Fein and the 
Irish Party. Sinn Fein at the moment was generally 
described as a clique run by factionists and cranks and 
soreheads while the very newsboys summed it up in the 
witticism: “Sinn Fein! Sinn Fein. Shinbone!” As 
for the old Fenians they were all dead, except Tom 
Clarke in his tobacco shop or old Henry Flood in 
Sandymount or living on in their memories, picturesque 
failures hidden in history books, unheeded by the peace- 
loving citizens even while the Dublin traffic rolled con- 
70 



Rente mhe ring Sion 

temptuously past the solitary stone laid to Wolfe Tone’s 
memory at the top of Grafton Street in the year 1898 
with pomp and shouting and baton charges and ever 
since forgotten, 

Down Mount Street and past the green of the Square 
and a brisk walk and a turn up Kildare Street and I was 
in the best part of Dublin for me in those years : the 
National Library where all the world with a collar and 
tie might enter and ransack the treasures of the ages- 
Father Dineen always sat at a table preparing his Irish 
Dictionary in its future fullness and completeness of 
definitiveness or resurrecting the poets of Munster with 
suitable veils to their erratic strayings into taverns and 
wildness and heresy en route to fame in his editions and 
an edifying death-bed. Sometimes he turned earthwards^ 
his lost blue eyes and wan face quickening^ to read a 
light novel to refresh his mind before he passed through 
the turnstile for a breath of air or bent over the counter 
to talk amiably to the assistants. 

In their way these assistants struck me as being as 
learned as Father Dineen or any one else in the common- 
wealth of letters and lore. They always warned you 
not to bother about the catalogue near the turnstilej but 
to ask them first since their memories were so good that 
they knew every book on every shelf. Here I read 
Balzac and George Borrow and Alison’s History of 
Europe and Mazzini and John Mitchel and Montaigne’s 
Essays and Rousseau’s Social Contract — ^which sent me 
asleep and roused the Mount Street table to laughter 
and wounding witty advice to be sure and get out Kant 
for my next night-cap, the Critique of Pure Reason being 
specially recommended for this purpose — and Sir Walter 
Scott from the shelves where I found a work on the 
Earth by Elsee Reclus with flaming nebula and strange 
monsters unknown to Genesis crawling a million years 

71 



Rememlering Sion 

before. There too I read Kropotkin’s Autobiography 
and Newman’s Essays and Karl Marx in chunks and 
Wolfe Tone whole and histories of the Church and 
travels and poetry and Irish history and many a current 
book, gay and solemn and nondescript and half-under- 
stood from the glass-case on the counter, and sometimes 
the assistants looked startled at the books I asked for, 
especially when after reading Underground Russia^ I 
asked with eager and imperious simplicity for the work 
mentioned therein by Stepniak, The Career of a Nihilist, 
The assistant laughed loudly before he confcwssed that 
the National Library was short of such a book with such 
a title — nearly as loudly as the Corkman on the tram 
one day who looked over the shoulder of the man in 
front of him and saw that great work entitled ; Is Suicide 
a Sin? Afterwards I read Stepniak in a paper-cover 
edition and groaned over the long chronicle of the self- 
tortures of hero and heroine, shocked as few books have 
shocked me at the first reading, and what shocked me 
most was that the Nihilist with whom I had borne so 
patiently throughout many painful pages, should after 
all miss the Czar when he eventually managed to point 
the revolver and press the trigger. It was too like 
Tony Weller’s boy who had learned the alphabet and 
found it was hardly worth going through so much to 
learn so little. Eventually a medical student stole Stepniak 
from me, and he was quite welcome to it. 

At that time under the roof of the National Library 
fermented many minds which would stir Ireland in a 
few short years. Even as the students swallowed and 
digested all the knowledge necessary to pass from the 
Fairy City via examinations’ halls, Arthur GrifEth had 
learned much there and Connolly’s pencil had scribbled 
many a note from the classics of Socialism or perhaps 
from the musty files in the newspaper room below 

72 



Rememhering Sion 

where he had gone to live and learn with Mitchel and 
Lalor in the red^ hungry and futile year of Forty-Eight. 
Sheehy-Skeffington had bustled in with shining eyes 
glowing in his vital and bearded face, all mirth and 
challenge from knickeibockers to whatever badge of 
defiance he wore on the lapel of his coat. James Joyce 
and Padraic Colum and James Stephens and Thomas 
MacDonagh dipped and argued and brooded over the 
tables, and Father Dineen went on with improvements 
to his Dictionary and tracked down more and more 
melodious and repentant poets, and year and year after 
year the students passed out to strange cities and places 
ere tragedy should halt on the very steps outside. There, 
as I ransacked the shelves and tested the infallible 
memories at the counter, Crawford Neil the poet sat 
just beyond the glass case, never at loss for an answer 
as the pencilled dockets were handed to him: on such 
and such a shelf. Then back again to the paper and 
book in front of him, his fine head and wondering eyes 
poised until the Easter morning a stray bullet catches 
him in the back on the steps beyond the pillars and he 
falls dead. Meanwhile, he dreams and pens his poems 
if there are no questions to answer or no more books 
to be sent across to Father Dineen, A. E. lurks near the 
counter and whispers to a scarlet-faced librarian. Some 
short-sighted reader spells the words aloud as he slowly 
cons the pages slowly turned before him. A man with 
narrow, cunning eyes swears and mutters in irritation at 
something in that huge book he opens at the same 
table night after night, Dubliners with thirsty minds 
turn many thousand pages or scribble in a thousand 
note-books to a low hum of gaiety and good stories 
under the hissing drone of whitish-blue lights above. 
Father Dineen rises and goes out for good, leaving all 
his stacks of books behind him for reverent assistants 

7 ^ 



Rememhering Sion 

to bear away smiling, all ready for him the same hour 
to-morrow morning. Too quickly the hours rush on 
under the hissing lights. Past a great clock on a bakery 
near Leinster Street I go on many a night afier ten, the 
book just read seething in my brain, racked and heightened 
with all die fever and wonders of youth, back to the 
flow of Gaelic in Mount Street and the jokes of Michael 
and Sean and Seamus. Perhaps I overdid Brotlier 
Walsh’s advice as I read not only both sides but all 
sides. Then as now I had an almost physical love of 
books and could have watched the shelves and bindings 
and titles with sheer delight, unperturbed that I could 
never hope to read them all. 

Sometimes in Ponsonby’s bookshop fronting the 
Trinity walls and railings I saw the sad face of John 
Dillon, thick eyebrows, sorrow-shaded eyes and perky 
beard worshipping some tight-held tome. From these 
shelves at Grafton Street corner, and those of Hanna 
and Neale’s across the tram-lines in Nassau Street, citron 
rows of French novels gleamed tantalisingly at me. 
The shadow of ignorance was only slowly lifting, and 
whole sentences remained in half-line obscurity as I 
wrestled with Erckmann-Ch attain or Pascal or Mignet in 
the National Library or hammered some Zola I had 
picked up on the quays with the dictionary and guess, 
held by the sincerity and rushing rhetoric hewn out of 
the foreign stone but feeling for all my pains as if I had 
dined on heavy plum-cake unwisely, Pascal’s Letters 
to a Provincial I read in English and sided with the 
Jesuits since it seemed to me that they were decidedly 
the weaker side in that debate, and that Pascal favoured 
those verbose saints’ lives more than the those unhappy 
Fathers addressed with such cutting wit and force of 
argument. Pascal recalled my uncle, since evidently 
both Pascal and he had revelled in Euclid for their 


74 



Rememhering Sion 

childish reading, and my uncle had praised Pascahs 
Thoughts as sonaething to be read when I found it, which 
I did on the quays, for fourpence, in splendid condition, 
and placed it uncut on the same shelf with Carlyle for 
my eighteenth year when I should read and understand 
everything. Tolstoy in his tales and in Anna Karenina 
and Resurrection and My Confession I read and reread, 
and the Autobiography of John Stuart Mill for its mention 
in the last. Upton Sinclair's Jungle kept me awake 
until a very ghastly dawn and Zola's Rome and Paris 
to more pleasant dawns, but his Lourdes sent me into 
golden slumbers after twenty pages until I awoke in a 
smoking bed with the candle blazing on my pillow. 
I rescued Lourdes all waxed and singed at the corners 
and put out the beginnings of a promising fire and 
turned back to my golden dreams. In the morning my 
Aunt Bridget came in and thanked Heaven that we had 
not all gone there in the night. Since then I have never 
fallen asleep over the many hooks I have read in bed 
and never completed the pilgrimage to Lourdes with 
Emile though I have been there with his friend Huysmans 
and given Emile several opportunities. Thanks to the 
accursed Intermediate at this time French to me had 
no melody but was a series of letters to be held by my 
memory and dodged by my tongue. 

About this time I came upon Haeckel's Riddle of the 
Universe^ which soon joined Pascal and Carlyle on the 
waiting shelf, and several supplementary volumes by 
the Professor’s faithful and eloquent ex-Franciscan 
disciple, Mr. Joseph McCabe, whose autobiographical 
Twelve Years in a Monastery much delighted me although 
an odd phrase about the Irish jarred me and a certain 
lack of imagination for all the personal pilgrimage it 
chronicled. Particularly, the footnotes annoyed me. 
They seemed to ring less true with every edition the 

75 



Remembering Sion 

further Mr. McCabe receded in time from the atmosphere 
so sincerely described in his first edition. But something 
about this Rationalist propaganda attracted me at the 
time if only as a haven from clericalism and the more 
strident expressions of Catholicism. Through this mood, 
I discovered with surprise, many Dubliners passed, 
outliving the phase and loving the Church a little better 
from having stood apart from its ranks, in thought at 
least, for a while. 

These tomes of the Rationalist Press Association in 
pale blue with portraits of Renan and Herbert Spencer 
and Darwin on the covers led to a little comedy in the 
Dublin I knew. A grey-faced man with a squint and 
an aggressive whining argumentativeness which stirred 
all the slumbering Catholic bigotry in me to sarcastic 
contradiction told me that he had read Clodd’s Pioneers 
of Evolution and Grant Allen’s Evolution of the Idea of 
God, and these had finished him with “ Catholic Ireland 
and the pot-bellied Bishops and clergy.” Never was 
there so firm a believer in priestcraft as the little grey 
man with the squint. He blamed the clergy for dirty 
streets and low wages and bad weather and everything 
else he could think of. The activities of a Vigilance 
Association outside several newsagents’ shops enraged 
him exceedingly. These equally frothy, grey-faced and 
squinting patrols had been inspired by his friends the 
clergy, lean and portly, to picket these newsagents in 
the interests not so much of morals, though of that 
the talk was loudest, but of faith and anti-Socialism. 
Behind the counter of one of these shops watched the 
mother of the proprietor, much perplexed. The good 
woman went to Mass every morning and never read the 
literature she sold over the counter, and she sold the 
Freethinker and the Freeman’s Journal and Sacred Heart 
Messenger and Police Budget and Socialist and Snappy 
76 



Remembering Sion 

Bits without ever reading any of them, prayer-books 
and Socialist pamphlets and lives of saints and ballad 
sheets all in the way of business. After long scorning 
and defiance of the pickets who had attracted custom 
and counter-pickets, one day she drew the little man 
with the grey face and the squint aside and told him in 
a horrified whisper that she had heard another man 
known to him tell some one in her shop the night before 
that there was no God. The little man told her that he 
knew there was no God and hundreds of people in the 
city of Dublin knew there was no God, all decent people 
who bought papers, and if she would read Mr. Clodd 
and Mr. Grant Allen herself she would learn there was 
no God. She blessed herself again and went on selling 
the Freethinker and Sacred Heart Messengei and Snappy 
Bits^ sometimes handing the little grey man a new 
saint’s life and always mentioning him in her prayers, 
which was more than she ever did for the pickets at 
which she scowled so severely, saying they had the minds 
of cesspools and wanted something to do when they 
spent so much time trying to ruin the livelihood of 
decent and God-fearing people. In the end the little grey 
man gave up trying to get her to read Mr. Clodd and 
Mr. Grant Allen. He confided to me that he knew several 
who had read all the pale-blue books and shrugged tJieir 
shoulders and talked the head off him and enriched the 
Catholic Truth Society with the libraries they hurled at 
liim, and raised their hats as they passed the churches and 
then went inside and got married, and their wives wouldn’t 
have the pale-blue books in the house at all and that was 
the way the pot-bellied devourers of port wine and bacon 
were ruining the mind of the country instead of admitting 
the game was up. Except the man who wouldn’t go 
into a church at all and made the mot go to a registry 
office to save her good name and the priest had called 

77 



Rememhering Sion 

round to try and get the man^s employer to dismiss 
him, but the employer had told the priest to mind his 
own business and go to the devil, Mr. Clodd and Mr. 
Grant Allen had demolished. Then the little grey man 
cursed the Vigilance Committees, saying they were all 
reformed porter sharks and sour old maids the God that 
never existed outside the dream-haunted brains of 
savages had mercifully planked on the shelf. Many a 
Dubliner who refused to bow down to the little man's 
pale-blue idols and still believed in God and the Saints 
vigorously applauded this last dogma and called down 
the fire of Heaven upon another public-spirited gentle- 
man who divided his leisure between championing the 
slums and upholding purity by plastering cinema-screens 
with eggs and the shop windows with bricks whenever 
film vamps gave too overpowering hints to the young 
persons of Dublin or Venus of Milo or some other 
shameless exhibition imperilled the chastity of Grafton 
Street and offended his very inflammable eyes. 

Despite all his efforts another dark tread mingled with 
my Mount Street dreams and journeys among books; 
the whore-prowled streets and a drab and mournful 
procession which flaunted itself, bespccklcd with red and 
khaki from O'Connell Street nightly down the lanes and 
canal banks to the shebeens and brothels behind Amiens 
Street station with waving shawls and paint-scarred faces 
and beer-stinking, snuffling, wheedling, obsceire voices, 
a litany of blasphemy and filth soon caught by the ears 
and soon sounding from the barefooted newsboys' merry 
tongues. Between the slums and the garrison whoredom 
ate like a cancer across the very vitals of the capital and 
a wind of syphilis blew from night town through the 
most stately squares and streets to the cries of harlots 
pouncing on their sodden prey or screaming in the pubs 
or vanishing under the canal trees or into some cab 
78 



Remembering Sion 

twice-circling St. Stephen’s Green. When Dublin be- 
came a free capital again she turned and swept her streets 
clean of mud and harlots, and youth was no longer 
darkened by that mournful, pox-eaten, howling army of 
harpies befouling all its dawning dreams. This army 
of night town was parasitic on the Army of Occupation 
and sprang from the muck-heaps before the crumbling 
mansions where abandoned, ill-fed and hopeless rotted 
in mind and body the poor of Dublin, 20,000 families 
in one room apiece with a death-rate higher than Moscow 
under the Czars or Calcutta swept by plague and cholera, 
few dreams to sweeten dry bread and rank tea and 
meatless boards. Sometimes a mournful flower rose 
with an austere bloom from this noisome soil like the 
working-man, Matt Talbot, that Merrion Square has 
since erected into a saint to save the Irish from Red 
Stars in the East. In his youth Matt Talbot drank the 
very boots off his feet but saw a great light in a Dublin 
pub one day and passed the rest of his life in penance 
and prayer, a rusting cart-chain wound into his flesh, 
a plank for bed in his tenement and all his scanty savings 
for missions and pious works. All unsuspected he 
walked through the wars and revolutions of Dublin 
until he dropped dead one day in 1923 on his way to 
Mass at the age of sixty-eight. And as he went on his 
pilgrimage, Sean O’Casey found in John Mitchel and 
Shakespeare picked up on the quayside barrows words 
to voice the all-surrounding greyness and semi-starvation 
and woe. Again here James Joyce passed and looked 
and remembered and painted the truth a more prosperous 
and sleeker Dublin would like to forget. Perhaps Matt 
Talbot’s more outspoken and human workmates classed 
him with that universal and pathological nuisance in 
Dublin: the pious man with a kink about music-halls 
and lurid oaths. After his remarkable life had been 

79 



Rememhering Sion 

made famous through the efforts of Sir Joseph Glynn 
in a Avcll-known biography^^ Dublin awoke with a start. 
The officials of an organisation with which Matt Talbot 
had been connected during his unobtrusive life were 
urged to search their records. The search was made 
and nothing more emerged to help Devil’s Advocate 
or Matt Talbot’s canonisation beyond a story which 
proved that even this obscure and humble citizen had 
not escaped the Dublin lack of veneration. He had 
died of valvular disease of the heart after a lifetime as 
a labouring man in a carters’ yard. Outwardly he 
looked quite healthy. The records showed that his 
friends liad pressed the organisation to relieve him, 
but on inquiry an official declared that this was not a 
deserving case. Indignant protests led to a committee 
meeting and the official was summoned to defend his 
report. He ended his defence with a stolid shake of the 
head: ‘‘Well, as you have asked my opinion as to 
what sort this fellow Talbot is, I may as well let you 
have it straight. It is my opinion, confirmed by long 
experience of my work, that the fellow is nothing more 
nor less than a rigistered bowsie ! ” Bowsie is a shattering 
Dublin word, but the official was overborne and Matt 
Talbot received the help which sustained him until he 
died, working and praying and fasting to the end. 
Beside his plank bed rested a trunkful of mystic and 
devotional tomes, Faber and Newman and St, Francis 
de Sales, many lives of saints verbose and marvellous, 
well tliumbed and each page conned with a prayer to 
the Holy Ghost for guidance. These mournful flowers 
are not uncommon in the Dublin slums and churches. 
I have known similar grey-faced and praying men, 
noble and over-scrupulous in their lives, betimes modest 
and self-sacrificing, but none have had the ornaments of 
cart-chain and plank-bed to romanticise them. Some 



RemembeTing Sion 

shuddered at Socialism. Others loving Ireland fled from 
Sinn Fein at the frown of the Hierarchy. None had the 
maggot of religious mania in brains. Had Matt Talbot.^ 
He needs at least to be saved from his popularisers. 
When the smug and prosperous Dubliner of to-day 
wants to be smugger than usual he calls upon Matt 
Talbot in the skies to save him from the barbarians 
without and the Abbey Theatre and the half-hundred 
Communists within. This type of Dubliner, blind to all 
the mistakes which have helped to send up his city in 
flames and turmoil twice in twenty years, thinks a worker 
in chains would be an admirable patron for the Labour 
organisations. As any hint of sectarianism is the one 
thing calculated to infuriate the overwhelmingly Catholic 
membership of the present Labour unions the good 
Dubliner has always been disappointed. But he will 
continue to refuse to see the thing under his eyes: the 
real Christianity of the vast mass of the Irish people. 
He will continue to raise his eyes to Heaven when a 
long procession of Dublin working-men follows the 
coffin of a professed unbeliever to his grave in homage 
to his service to Labour in his lifetime, carefully raising 
a hundred caps as they pass the Dublin churches. He 
will applaud some Bishop dubbing Tone a cut-throat. 
He will continue to scream that Sean O’Casey should 
above all remember the edifying life of Matt Talbot. 

This appeal to Sean O’Casey is made regularly and it 
is the grimmest joke that ever came out of Dublin. 
Even while Matt Talbot made his pilgrimage through 
his trunk of good books, bound tight in his scruples 
and cart-chain, Sean O’Casey had begun a pilgrimage 
through chains and books and drab places lighted with 
a dream. Once Seamus and I left Mount Street and 
found ourselves in a Drumcondra Sinn Fein club. Two 
strange figures remain among the memories of the night. 

F 8i 



Retncmhering Sion 

Madame dc Marcicvicz &al in the middle of the room, 
pensive and beautiful with a costly lace collar draping 
her shoulders, ready to explode into the most uncon- 
vincingly blood-thirsty sentiments as the lecture and 
debate developed, but speaking with a gentle charm to 
any one who approached her in private. She was, 
although her fury expressed in such polite accents had 
a comic aspect, a very courageous woman, for she had 
broken with all her friends and immediate circle to 
champion an obscure movement. She protested that 
this was only a small atonement for her ancestors’ sins 
in plundering the Irish people. On the back benches 
sat Sean O’Casey, then much swayed by memories of 
Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet, and especially Shane the 
Proud’s head spiked on Dublin Castle in the days of 
Good Queen Bess, this last event in those days a burning 
personal grief of his; it jostled bitter phrases from 
Mitchel and Lalor’s most urgent calls to revolt on the 
eve of Forty-Eight in all Sean’s speeches. 

Sean O’Casey sits in silence at the back of the hall 
during the lecture, a dour and fiery figure swathed in 
labourer’s garb, for he works on the railways just then. 
His neck and throat are bound in the coils of a thick 
white raufller, and he looks a Jacobin of Jacobins as his 
small, sharp and red-rimmed eyes stab all the beauty and 
sorrow of the world. He speaks first, and very fluently 
and eloc[uently in Irish, then launches out into a violent 
Republican oration in English, stark and forceful, 
Biblical in diction with gorgeous tints of rhetoric and 
bursts of anti-English Nationalism of the most un- 
compromising style. He will have none of the Socialists 
who have turned in to heckle the lecturer and he 
rends them savagely and brushes their materialism aside. 
Yes, he reminds them, when roused by his sharp words 
they murmur interruptions taunting him with the poverty 



Rememhering Sion 

and degradation of the Dublin workers, there is all that 
in life. Half to himself he speaks, lowering his voice to 
an intense whisper, but there is something else: joy. 
He speaks the word, and his tone gives a meaning to it 
even as he sinks down into silence on the bench, his 
fierce small head an angry star over all the others in the 
rear. Walter Carpenter rises and would argue with him, 
serious anger a-gleam in two grey bespectacled eyes. 
Walter is a leading Socialist propagandist, a most humour- 
less and self-sacrificing man who walks in from Dun- 
leary each night from home to his meetings in the city; 
he has ruined his worldly prospects for his beloved 
Red Flag and all but lost his business on the head of it. 
He is to be heard at the Socialist Party of Ireland, an- 
nouncing solemnly that there will be a social followed 
by a supper, a cold supper, comrades, and you are all 
earnestly invited to attend and see ’ow Socialists be’ave 
themselves. His voice moans a reproach and an argu- 
ment to Sean O’Casey. The fierce star at the rear 
becomes a soaring and hissing comet : O’Casey rises in 
a fury and growls in Irish like a thunderstorm that he 
wishes no Englishman to teach him, Sean strides through 
the door with flames in his eyes and his fists clenched. 
A translation of his farewell reaches Walter, whose accents 
grow more and more suited to a wake. With a sob in 
his keen, he wails : “ I ’ope some one will go out after 
that misguided individual who ’as rushed out eaten up 
with racial ’atred, and tell him for Gawd’s sike, that I 
am not an Englishman but a Scotchman, and that I ’ad 
the honour to drop a tear in the grive of Charles Stewart 
Parnell!” Soon Sean O’Casey fell under the spell of 
Larkin and became as fierce a Labourist as he had been 
a physical-force Republican, still suspicious of the 
Socialists, and perhaps finding models for his Covey 
in his Plough and the, Stars. The pages of Larkin’s 

8 ^ 



Rememhering Sion 

Irish Worker carried articles from his pen, all remarkable 
in their style and power with an independent outlook 
struggling through the overfine writing and exotic wordi- 
ness. Yet that night in Drumcondra who could suspect 
he would yet voice the darkest depths of slumland and 
the agony of unsuspected years of turmoil and terror ? 
As O’Casey strode beside his pipers’ band or spoke in 
the clubs there was a force and character about him even 
if you thought he was a crank, a fanatic, a man whose 
mind had room for only one idea at a time. In private 
he had a courtesy and simplicity. 

But there was another dreamer who lived in 
regions unknown to Matt Talbot or Sean O’Casey, one 
who walked abroad to slay great flaming dragons and 
scale mighty mountains : lo ! Endymion marches down 
Grafton Street swinging a net of groceries and a sword 
tucked under his arm — a furnace in his face and his 
teeth gnashing in indignation to the delight of the 
children and older wits who shout aloud taunts which 
bring Endymion’s sword flashing from his sheath to 
fight the ciusade he has sworn and slay all the monsters 
of the mind he found years before he fell into a beer vat 
head foremost and filled himself with dreams. Dublin 
christened him Endymion and Endymion he remained 
to his dying day; and this was spent in seclusion, for 
the edge of Endymion’s sword in his last years had 
become too keen and his thrusts too true to allow him 
to stalk his dragons abroad any more. He was a proud 
figure, glaring through his eyeglass, sword tucked ready 
for his daily dragon, a small brown hat for helmet and 
his visions whistling and snarling through his teeth as 
he pursued his winged crocodiles and fire-breathing 
serpents and slew a thousand demons oflering him the 
kingdoms of the earth. The children laughed at Endy- 
mion as he passed and the children were right. There 
84 



Remembering Sion 

were saner scalers of the clouds abroad. George Russell 
sailed down the street in Endymion’s wake, a noble 
galleon obliterating the sight of a guideless cockle- 
boat turning madly in the spray: his wide eyes netting 
every shade and tint of hour, immortals nesting in his 
hair, statistics and seraphs locked behind his ample brow, 
Padraic Colum swept from a side-turning, eaglet head 
a-flutter. James Stephens with dark visions in his 
doleful eyes patrols the Green, gnome-like and jesting 
with the gods and mourning the hunger-gnawed city 
warrens. Upstairs in the Cafe Cairo in blue clouds and 
coffee fumes students and poets talk and Dubliner meets 
Dubliner with no hurry to go home again and the chess- 
boards are out. A turban gleams in Grafton Street. 
The ladies pass in parade with alluring robes and the 
latest scandal, and as they gleam and chatter a poet 
snarls to his learned friends beside him: “Things are 
bad enough without these huzzies hurling their persons 
in our teeth ! ” Critics of fashion are plenty in Dublin 
just now. Down Rathmines at this very hour while 
the poet erupts in Grafton Street, another poet dashes 
crusading on his side-car, a silver cross gleaming round 
his neck, a brown habit showing under his black coat, 
a sheaf of papers clasped in his hands. He reads his 
poems to the jarvey, to the first labouring man on a 
canal bridge, or to you or me, bidding us the time of 
day in a sonorous and friendly way ; in any case as we go 
by the audience he fixes with his large and dramatic 
look. Sometimes silver cross and brown habit mount 
a tram-car, and there is a sudden clanging of the bell. 
The poet dismounts, sweeps his sombrero to the tram’s 
rear platform and hurls a parting judgment at the modern 
fashions within: “I crave your pardon, ladies, I had 
mistaken this bathing-box for a public vehicle I ” And 
on the nearest wall, in his flowing hand on foolscap, 

85 



Rcmernhering Sion 

he writes that or some other message of warning, reproof 
or doom, and pins it firmly in place. 

On the walls other messages catch the eye : the sable 
and yellow posters of the Abbey Theatre. Nightly on 
the top of the small stairs William Butler Yeats pauses 
and looks through the packed and quizzing pit and 
gallery before he descends to the stalls, solemn eyes and 
wispy forehead in the mists, much hated by the Gaels, 
and a brick from Arthur Griffith through his window 
every other week or so since the British Government 
gave him a literary pension to keep his bee in his little 
isle in Inisfree, and he brought Synge from Paris to 
Arran to belittle the great and sagacious people who 
still allow eighty playboys, job-hunters, traitors, West 
Britons, Eloquent Dempseys, weaklings, helots, Sham 
Squires, buffoons and four hundred pounders to represent 
them at Westminster. Echoes of the new speech of 
Synge rise from the pit which jests about Big Moons 
on Little Hills and Woman of the House and Dead 
Surely and Dividing Das to the Knobs of their Gullets 
and a Drift of Females in Their Shifts before Us. 
Darkness, and the curtain rising and there is a shout of 
delight as Arthur Sinclair struts down the stage in 
whatever comic mantle Lady Gregory so prim and 
silver-haired among the Olympians has provided. Unless 
it is a field night, and Mr. Yeats is defying the Mob and 
the Bourgeois with the help of the Dublin police and five 
hundred howling citizens, or Mr. George Bernard Shaw 
is defying the Censor with the aid of Fred O’Donovan 
and the Allgoods and Arthur Sinclair disguised this 
time as Elder Daniels with half the journalists of Europe 
and America watching from the wings when the seating 
gives out. Sometimes the Ulster Players on these same 
sacred boards satirise Mr. Yeats to his face by decking 
him in corduroy breeches and dress-suit with loud 



Rememhering Sion 

demands from Syngesque mummers for sticks from 
north-west corners of cupboards while a mist does be 
on the bog. But Lady Gregory then dresses Moliere in 
Kiltartan and the plaintive query comes from J. A. 
O’Rourke as to what he is doing in that galley. Thomas 
MacDonagh watches the stage pensively, his head on 
one side, and then wakes up to talk the other poets 
around him under the floor, and the wits say that Mac- 
Donagh has all the ideas and the other poets listen and 
then express them, though Thomas writes a hundred 
lines on the most meagre day wherever he is. His 
staccato laugh and “ begad ! ” cross the stalls and enter 
the ante-room with his gaily waved hand, and Thomas 
is soon at home with the critics and literati. Joseph 
Holloway, who knows all about the Abbey from the 
first stone to the last, blinks dogmatically and talks 
ex-cathedra. The Philistines creep out the door in the 
intervals and sometimes do not return from the pubs 
where they hear a speech as gay and glittering as Synge 
and Kiltartan, but no one seems to have thought it 
worth gathering, although Sean O’Casey’s intent eye 
upon the stage from the pit and his ear cocked eagerly 
are a splendid disguise for a future exporter of gold 
from El Dorado. In the pit, too, are pale and dark 
young men who groan with anguish at The Playboy of 
the Western World, and some crusty full-throated Gaels 
who want to drown Yeats and his clique in a sack in 
the Liffey, and bitter-tongued citizens who glare at the 
pallid and drooping and all-unconscious Lennox Robinson 
growling : “ Jasus, look at him ! He writes bloody 
gloomy plays. More blood in his words than himself. 
Gob, he defies the force of gravitation ; he’d fall slowly. 
Did you never hear him say : 0 Gawd ! ” Every night 
the Abbey is fuller and fuller, and the black and yellow 
posters never call in vain for a waiting queue. 


87 



Rernernhcring Sion 

Beneath all this lurked the tangle and deep disease of 
Dublin. John Mitchcl summed it up in one biting 
phrase: “O City of Dastards and Bellowing Slaves!” 
Down in Fownes Street, Dublin, sat the man with a 
pen as sharp as Mitchcl and an eye upon dastards and 
bellowing slaves to be flayed in the columns of Sinn 
Fein, Sometimes Arthur Griffith flayed the just with the 
unjust. George Moore was arrested by his fierce and 
icy words and summed him up as a ram in mind and 
person because he butted England with admirable per- 
sistency in his paper week in and week out while he 
allowed all the poets of Rathmines to carol in his columns. 
But Mr. Moore failed to add that when Arthur Griffith 
failed to get a poet from tire thirty-two counties of 
Ireland he wrote the paper himself so careless of fame 
that he disguised himself under many pen-names and 
so careless of money that when American journalists 
tried to tempt him away with lavish and certain dollars 
from flaying dastards and bellowing slaves, he merely 
pulled his tie straight and smiled shyly at them. Many 
Dubliners loved him and, unknown to themselves, spoke 
with his accents and knowledge, for that was the result 
of his never arguing but repeating his assertions for 
years and years. Sometimes a great cheer sent the roof 
of a Dublin hall sky-high when Arthur Griffith spoke, 
but that was not often, for Griffith disliked crowds and 
his spealdng voice was low and indistinct. At the 
Rotunda I can see him now halted in his speech by 
roaring waves of applause and stormy echoes, and he 
stands quiet and proud and cliff-jawed. Fie has touched 
the heart of Dublin with a word as he always can at a 
pinch, and as it roars in response perhaps Griffith fears 
he is becoming an orator, and does he not scathe all 
orators in every issue of his paper But after all he has 
only convinced the Gaelic Leaguers assembled in their 
88 



Rememhering Sion 

Oireachtas with a sudden trenchant word that he with- 
draws some doubts and reservations about the language 
revival. ... A great dark bud hovers over the spot 
Griffith has left^ a great dark bird with loud beating 
wings and a rush of music in its notes that lashes seven 
seas to life where Griffith had roused one with a whisper : 
Dr. Douglas Hyde is speaking. ... A golden-bearded 
man speaks, and arguments succeed the music of the 
dark and whirling biid, arguments profound and piercing 
in the accents of an Antrim glen and Eoin MacNeill 
steps from the platform back to his library while twenty 
pipers and a thunder of drums finishes with oratory for 
the night. . . . That evening in Mount Street while 
Michael and Sean discuss the great battles between the 
dialects of Munster and Connacht and those who have 
spoken Irish from the cradle and those who have not, and 
Joseph Clarke has come to their aid with his proud 
possession, that copy of Father Dincen's Irish Dictionary^ 
falling to pieces he has consulted it so often, and they 
have laughed again at certain citizens who are always 
making speeches to the Gaels and bidding farewell to 
the English language, for this again is the last time a 
Dublin audience shall hear them speak in aught else but 
the tongue of the Gael, but though they knit their brows 
and extend their arms in token of an irrevocable vow it 
never is, while Michael and Sean discuss all this, a name 
escapes them and the conversation flows on, and it is 
forgotten: this new teacher in the Ard-Craobh vdth 
the foieign name . . . Devil . . . de Valera with his 
gaunt face and dark moustaches , . . Spanish ale to 
give us hope . . . evidently they admire and like him. 

. . . Round the table in Mount Street there was great 
talk of a new Irish-Ireland educational experiment. Soon 
I knew this first-hand, for I went to Saint Enda’s College 
on its opening day and met Patrick Pearse. 


89 



SIX^ 

N OT’ since Wolfe Tone has any Irish leader left so 
deep a mark upon the national heart and imagination 
as Patrick Henry Pearse. But whenever I think of Pearse 
I Itavc to make an effort to think of him as a revolutionary 
leader at all, just as one who knows Tone from his 
journals may have to make an effort to identify him with 
a phrase in some fulsome and flamboyant oration or again 
with his profile and epaulets in some yellow and dusty 
print. Pearse, like Tone, lives best in his more intimate 
writings, and like Tone, too, those who speak most of 
Pearse read and heed him least. To me Pearse is ever a 
personality, most of all, perhaps, that schoolmaster of 
twenty-nine years I saw on the iron steps leading down 
to the Study Hall on a September morning in 1908. He 
was wrapped in his black gown, and Cullenswood House 
was wrapped in a mantle of history, history fulfilled and 
history to be: in the library near where Pearse was 
standing, Lecky had turned pages in his boyhood with 
those trees waving beyond the windows, ttecs perhaps 
young when the Irish swept down from the mountains 
on Easter Monday 1209 to wipe out the Bristol colonists 
of Dublin; until new colonists from Bristol in 1316 
hacked the O’Tooles to pieces in the Wood of Cullen 
and were quits for the deed which had given Easter 
Monday the name of Black Monday and pleasant fields the 
name of Bloody Fields, So much for the past, but this 
September morning forbodes another Easter too : Pearse 
and MacDonagh have come with their plans and dreams, 
and less than ten years after, Michael Collins and Richard 
90 



Rememhering Sion 

Mulcahy will plan and hide in a small room off a white- 
washed passage below stairs while Pearse and MacDonagh 
fill a page as vivid as ever slaughtered colonist or mountain 
raider six hundred years before. 

Pearse stood aloof on the stairhead, as sombre as his 
gown, a black tie showing under a somewhat Byronic 
collar, his high forehead rising over his fresh-coloured 
face, a slight cast in one of his blue eyes. This last 
blemish was caused by an illness in childhood, but so 
familiar to his pupils that it almost slips the memory: 
the dominant recollection of Pearse is of a handsome 
head well poised and a look more expressive , if anything, 
for the pallid, irregular pupil and all the power of the 
sane left eye with its shades of command, feeling and 
pensiveness. Outwardly he was shy, unassuming and 
very reserved. He read my fatlier’s letter and walked 
under the fanlight on the stairhead, where three coloured 
candles burned in stained glass with the Irish triad 
beneath: “ Three candles which illume every darkness: 
Truth, Wisdom, Knowledge.” He strode forward, 
smiling his shy smile and talking in Irish. His voice 
was clear and persuasive. He always tallced to his pupils 
in Irish, lapsing into the barest minimum of English until 
by twelve months his vocabulary had become the property 
of his young charges, and he laughed to himself as they 
flourished his own phrases and idioms as theirs. I looked 
up and saw an Old Irish inscription emblazoned round 
a fresco over a doorway in the hall ; the boy Cuchulainn 
taking arms. He stands with uplifted shield and spear 
in the presence of the king ; the Druid has warned him 
that those who take arms that day shall have short lives 
but renown undying. Pearse translated the boy's answer 
beneath in its half-circle of Gaelic lettering: “I care 
not though I live but one day and one night if only my 
fame and deeds live after me.” Under the cold manner 

91 



Rcniembcrlng Sion 

someihiii^ ftery brt)ke into the worcls^ and my mind went 
back to County Meatli, when T liad seen Patrick Pearse 
for tlie first tinie. This day in Cullens wood was the first 
clay J had found any spell in Pearse. I had promptly 
forgotten tljc man I had seen on the first occasion, and 
hucl been somewhat repelled by the touch of humourless” 
ness and priggishness in him. Yet on that clay in Meath 
tltcre was llic same aloofness, the vSame fires beneath un- 
covered suddenly, a faith in his deliberate and chosen 
words mounting from passion into poetry. Then as 
ever, he had been cold and apart in the beginning, clad 
in his greatcoat with the collar turned up, a grey Stetson 
hai in his gloved hands, head bent slightly on one side 
with his eyes intent on the ground except when he raised 
them with a transient toss of impetuosity. His manner of 
spealdng was grave, slow, deliberate, and at moments 
almost painful in its pauses and stresses and oratorical 
questions and repetitions and phrases on the edge of 
platitude. Until the fire within reached his words and 
the listener was a critic no longer: Pearse soars over 
his listeners" heads and reaches their hearts. Oratory 
is an art he loves and practises with pride* he has 
learned much from Shakespeare and can quote from 
Grattan and Parnell and Augustine Birrell or Arthur 
Balfour or Cicero or Milton as a sign of his study of 
the tribunes and masters of words. In County Meath 
on the rain-soaked Hill of Ward, he mounts the platform 
in defiance of all the fierce showers which washed 
previous speakers to a dumb and damp retreat. As the 
hundreds in the sodden grass think of moving back to 
shelter until the excursion train is ready to return to 
Dublin, Pearse appears on the platform bareheaded. 
He waves an umbrella aside imperiously that some one 
would hold over him, and soon the rain-soaked audience 
are in the grip of that flaming sincerity which we know 
92 



Rememhering Sion 

to-day moved even the judges at his court martial. 
Through the icy deliberation of his opening sentences 
this sincerity breaks into glowing and passionate words, 
and with uplifted head and few gestures, Pearse soars 
and lifts us from the sopping green and dull soil of 
Meath. The gathering is to commemorate the life and 
work of Father Eugene O’Growney, one of the most 
famous of the language revivalists from whose simple 
phonetic text-books students throughout Ireland just then 
first grappled with Irish, landing salmons and stools and 
the time of day and bread and oxen and that very Asses’ 
bridge of Irish : the three forms of the verb “ to be.” 
Father O’Growney had died in exile, alone and ailing, 
a burning flame quenched in the end by that Irish plague 
which has quenched so many bright flames : con- 
sumption. In exile he had written to his old friend, 
Patrick Pearse, then editor of the Gaelic League official 
organ and a traveller into every Irish-speaking district in 
the land on foot and a-wheel, a gleaner of plant-names 
and bird-names and place-names, and many lists of these 
Father O’Growney has sent him just before death comes 
on the wings of the Irish plague, when the exiled priest 
knows he will never see Ireland again and turns to a 
wall in far San Francisco and weeps. Such was the tale 
Pearse told on the rainy day in Meath. His w^as the only 
memorable speech. He was the only speaker who held 
his ground against the elements, a fire undimmed by all 
tire clouds and waters. 

That old Meath scene recurred to me that September 
morning, for though Pearse had remained in my mind 
as a remarkable speaker and a flaming idealist, a prejudice 
lingered too : there was little fun in him, an over-austerity, 
a strain of goody-goodyness. I was yet to learn that he 
was self-critical to the point of injustice, and hear him 
confess that when he was young he was undoubtedly 

93 



Rememhering Sion 

“ a bit of a prig.” And I was to discover a rich humour 
behind all that mask of austerity. That morning he was 
very quiet as he welcomed the forty boys who gathered in 
twos and threes on the sanded path under the beeches 
and elms and sycamores near the fruit trees beyond 
the moss-green iron pailings of the garden. Thomas 
MacDonagh sailed through the main gate, a bundle of 
books beneath his arm, a smile on his flexible mouth 
and mirth in his great piercing gaze. He flourished his 
hands in easy gestures and became friendly with the 
whole forty boys in ten minutes, talking thirteen to the 
dozen and laughing his quick staccato laugh. “ Begad,” 
he cries, and again, “ listen to this, Pearse, begad ! ” He 
promises every boy the most certain and amazing progress 
in every subject on the programme in less than a week, 
having learned Italian in that time himself with the aid 
of a dictionary, his Latin and his days in Paris. “ A 
soldier’s life is the life for me ! ” he sings, and then breaks 
into a merry French song and comes down like a hundred 
of bricks on one of the boarders for a smut on his nose. 
He goes from group to group, summing up its knowledge 
and character with sudden questions and more prophecies. 
He drops his books on the sanded path and, as he gathers 
them up, commences the story of his life we eventually 
have continued in class-time by dint of artful leading 
questions or books placed on view to set him off, and 
once we succeed in starting Thomas MacDonagh there 
is no stop or halt until tlie class is over with MacDonagh’s 
amazed shout of dismay: “Good heavens! There is 
that bell again. There is never any time to do anything.” 
His life was never exhausted by us, for there were long 
digressions on everything under the sun. Sometimes 
Thomas had an uneasy conscience that he should stick 
more to the programme and refuse to be led on. Then 
he would shake his head at his class and smile and confess 

94 



Rememhering Sion 

that he ought to be ashamed of himself to talk so much, 
but he had never had such an interesting audience, ancl 
what harm if he talked about histoiy when he was 
nominally teaching Irish, and French when he should 
be at Latin, and Irish when he should be grinding away 
at mathematics and politics and Dublin gossip in the 
hours due to English ; it was all knowledge anyway, and 
the great thing was to enlarge one’s culture. But his 
talk was not idle talk and his instalments of his life-story 
were in much demand: how he had tried to join the 
French Army and found too late there were three 
vacancies per annum for Irishmen in the Austrian Army 
ever since some great battle in the days of the Wild 
Geese; how he had nearly been a priest; how he had 
been the greatest West Britisher in Ireland and suppressed 
the Irish language and played Rugby football in a South 
of Ireland College ; how he was very properly held up 
to popular odium for this in a Dublin paper and saw the 
light, learning Irish in some quick flashes of time, all as 
a matter of course; and all his friends, from Padraic 
Colum, who was mad on Arabs and Arabian civilisation 
and liable to be found dead in a ditch devoid of 
MacDonagh’s guidance so much in the air lived that 
gentle lover of deserts, caravans, coffee and the Koran, 
to Canon O’Leary, who offered all his visitors a bowl 
of milk and bowed them out if interrupted during his 
Irish masterpieces. But behind all MacDonagh’s talk 
and fussiness there was an inspiration and power of 
stimulation. 

At last we pass into the main classroom where in 
Gaelic lettering names of heroes, saints and sages circle 
the wainscotting : Brian of the Tribute, Owen Roe, 
Sarsfield, Tone, Colmcille, Patrick, Keating, John 
MacHale, Thomas Davis. Over the mantelpiece hangs 
a picture of the Christ-Child. Pearse mounts the 

95 



Rememhering Sion 

rostrum^ while at his side Thomas MacDonagh listens, 
grave and lost in his thoughts all of a sudden, Pearse 
speaks at once in Irish, swaying slightly and turning his 
head sideways in a mannerism peculiar to him. Some- 
thing in the tone of the man unknown to most of us, 
and the language still strange to all except some half- 
dozen native speakers grips us, for the expressionless 
face kindles and a force and a fire comes into the cold 
voice. He is still aloof from us, but the spell works, 
and as he turns to English we become conscious of it. 
There is a solemnity yet which chills us, something 
more akin to the monk than the preacher of war we 
and the world are to know later. To-day, Pearse is 
more preacher than warrior, A smile crosses MacD onagh^s 
face, and his face grows thoughtful once more : “ Begad, 
what a missioner was lost in Pearse The silence 
deepens as Pearse outlines the school programme with 
that trick of short, effective repetition of simple phrases, 
and ends with only one flash of the fire fated to burn 
him up in eight short years from the day we hear him 
speak. It is Pearse the Headmaster and scholar and 
Irish-Ireland idealist who speaks. In Cullenswood he 
only once spoke to us as a convinced revolutionary, and 
then to his senior students in an aside during an English 
class : no nation in history had ever won independence 
without fighting for it, except Norway, which had been 
prepared to fight. For the rest, during the years at 
Cullenswood House, Pearse might have been labelled 
by us as a staunch supporter of Mr. Redmond, for 
whenever he spoke of Sinn Fein it was very critically 
and often sharply, if some disparaging propaganda of 
Mr. Griffith against members of Mr. Redmond’s party 
came to his notice. But in these first years we heard 
most Pearse, the Irish language revivalist. Pearse, in 
one of the severe personal judgments of himself he 
96 



Rememhering Sion 

would make in confidence from time to time, described 
himself as being for long after the opening of St. Enda's 
and indeed until six months before his death, ‘‘a harmless 
literary Nationalist and not a dangerous man.” In this 
judgment he was a true extremist, because long before 
that those of his senior pupils who knew him well were 
wont to joke about the small chance and opportunity 
needed to make Pearse head a revolt. But on the rostrum 
that clay and many days after his one immediate aim was 
to make us Irish-speaking and restore an Irish-speaking 
Ireland by a reform of education. We heard nothing of 
Tone or Emmet as competitors with Cuchulainn and 
Colmcille, It was into the hero-world of the sagas he 
led us this very morning when he commenced to tell us 
the story of Cuchulainn. The very name of the school 
was taken fron Saint Enda of Aran, a prince who left all 
the honours and armies of the world and love itself to 
spend his days in solitude and prayer with a company of 
monks on a lonely island in the Atlantic. 

The lover of Saint Enda left him to found a convent, 
and he, bowing to the will of Heaven, founded his 
monastery. In these years at Cullenswood a treacherous 
wave off the Kerry coast swallowed the woman Pearse 
loved, the tragedy he enshrines in one line of his poem : 

In love I found But grief that withered my life. 

This was the first shadow which darkened Cullenswood 
House. At the funeral I remember Pearse with his 
grief-stricken face dressed in black and wearing a tall 
hat, with his mother beside him. He looked terribly 
moved, but few of the mourners at the funeral knew that 
this death which had stirred tlie public mind deeply 
meant more to Pearse than the loss of an esteemed 
colleague in the language movement. Members of his 
own family were equally ignorant, but Pearse^s nephew, 
G 97 



lietnemhering Sion 

Alfred MacGloughlin, told me of the scene with Pearse 
after this funeral, when Peaise had shaken his head 
and repeated again and again: “ Terrible, too terrible!” 
with the look I had seen in the ranks of the 
mourners. 

It is indeed to Pearse’s writings we must go to find 
autobiography in half-lines and odd asides and un- 
conscious portraits. In his poems, stories, plays, speeches 
and pamphlets he has told the truth about his life and 
motives so well that no one will ever do it better. The 
greatest Irishmen have suffered in their biographers, 
who, when not rich in rhetoric and lean in facts, have 
degenerated into the worst kind of apologists and ob- 
truded the catch-cries and cant of the hour for the words 
and life of a Mitchel or a Grattan. Wolfe Tone, too, 
has suffered, but in the main escaped by writing his 
biography himself so well that no one else can ever 
surpass or eclipse him at that business. Pearse will 
escape that fate in any case, because he too had not only 
unconsciously but consciously taken Tone’s precaution. 
Moreover, he left behind him in the memory of his 
contemporaries a figure so gracious and human that it 
already has woven itself into the tenacious and undying 
tradition of Ireland. Even that thing we have to make 
an effort to recatch to-day, soured and saddened by 
bitter Civil War disillusions, the passage of time and the 
vixen bark of pietistic political hypocrites, the spirit of 
Pearse’s day and all the early idealism of him and his 
associates has been revivified by a miracle in the ardent 
and graceful pages of Louis N. Le Roux’s Fie de Patrice 
Pearsed To read his Breton critic and biographer is 
to relive the spirit of Pearse and his time. 

The 1916 Insurrection cut short the greatest work of 
Pearse, At his final revision of his writings, he had to 

1 Rennes, 1931. English translation by Desmond Ryan, Dublin, 1532. 

98 



Rememhering Sion 

leave unfinished an autobiography wherein he sketched 
his own character, youth and early aspirations, adding a 
warning that he had mixed some poetry with the truth. 
His consideration for the feelings of others led him to 
make this autobiographical fragment a sealed book during 
the lifetimes of several mentioned in it, although beyond 
a few revelatory asides, the book stopped short about his 
tenth year. Pearse's relatives took his last injunction 
very literally, and the fragment has never been published. 
He had said the book was not to be published without 
permission during the lifetimes of three relatives men- 
tioned — a very scrupulous reservation, since notliing in 
these references could have offended. Pearse’s remark, 
that there was more poetry than truth in this auto- 
biography, proves that he never intended it to be taken 
too seriously. Fortunately, Pearse had already written 
his real spiritual autobiography in his play The Singer ^ 
and fortunately, too, his youth can be reconstructed from 
other sources. Early portraits show him as a pensive 
and brooding child. He himself attributed his own deep 
and fiery love of Ireland and his Gaelicism to his mother's 
people, the Bradys, with memories of pikes and gibbets 
in the Meath of Ninety-Eight. In his Songs of the Irish 
Rebels^ he tells us of the old aunt, the woman to whom 
I owe all my enthusiasms," and adds in The Story of a 
Success: It is a long time since I was attracted by the 

Gaelic plan of educating children. One of my oldest 
recollections is that of a kindly grey-haired seanchaidhe 
(story-teller), a woman of my mother’s people, telling 
tales by the kitchen fire-place. She spoke more wisely 
and nobly of ancient and heroic things than any one else 
I have ever known. Her only object was to amuse me, 
yet she was the truest of all my teachers. One of her 
tales was of a king, the most famous king of his time in 
Ireland, who had gathered about him a number of boys, 

99 



Remembering Sion 

the children of his friends and kinsmen, whom he 
organised into a little society, giving them a constitution 
and allowing them to make their own laws and elect 
their own leaders. The most renowned of the Idng’s 
heroes were appointed to teach them chivalry, the most 
skilled of his men of art to teach them arts, the wisest of 
his druids to teach them philosophy. The Idng himself 
was one of their teachers, and so did he love their com- 
panionship that he devoted one-third of all the time he 
saved from affairs of State to teaching them or watching 
them at play; and if any stranger came to the dun during 
that time, even though he were a king’s envoy demanding 
audience, there was but one answer to him : ‘ the king 
is with his foster-children.’ This was my first glimpse 
of the Boy-Corps of Eamhain-Macha, and the picture 
has remained in my heart. In truth, I think that the 
old Irish plan of education, as idealised for boys in 
the Macradh of Eamhain and for girls in that of the 
Grianan of Lusga, was the wisest and most generous 
that the world has ever known.” This wise old woman 
with her fire-side tales thus gave Pearse the inspiration 
on which he afterwards founded St. Enda’s College, but 
she gave him more than that : his first words of Irish, 
many an old Irish tale, legend, ballad, Ossianic lay and 
his life-long heroes too: Wolfe Tone, O’Donovan Rossa 
and Napoleon. Often Pearse, the Headmaster, recited 
the Old Grey Mare to his pupils in after years, an old 
ballad he had heard at the fire-side and partly rewritten '. 

At break of day I chanced to stray 
All by the Seine s fair side^ 

When to ease my heart young Bonaparte 
Came forward for to ride^ 

On afield of green with gallant mien 
He formed his men in square 
And down the line with look so fine 
He rode his Old Grey Mare. . . . 


inn 



Rememhering Sion 

The story of Pearse’s life is brief: he lived and died 
to realise his three wishes : to edit a bilingual newspaper, 
to found a bilingual secondary school, and to die as 
leader of a revolution to establish an Irish Republic. In 
between he wrote some of the best poems, short stories 
and plays in modern Irish, educationalist essays, heroic 
plays and propaganda pamphlets in English. He was 
born loth November 1879, at 22 Great Brunswick Street 
— since renamed Pearse Street — Dublin, where his father, 
James Pearse, had settled as a sculptor* James Pearse 
was a Devonshire man, impulsive and devoted to the 
arts, an advanced Radical and a friend of Charles 
Bradlaugh. His work in stone and marble is scattered 
over the Dublin churches. He could use his pen as 
well as his chisel, and the chief occasion he used his pen 
had a certain historic irony about it. One day in 1886, 
at the height of the Home Rule struggle, James Pearse 
saw a sixpenny pamphlet, England's Duty to Ireland^ 
written by Dr. Thomas Maguire of Trinity, a Catholic 
professor with an alphabet of degrees and distinctions 
and very rabid Unionist views. The opening lines of the 
pamphlet infuriated James Pearse : “ Most people will 
admit at the first blush that Ireland is less civilised than 
England.” He read on to the end: I repeat that there 
is no nostrum for the Irish difficulty; the remedies are 
the constant enforcement of the law and the promotion 
of education,” Maguire followed the old familiar path 
of Spenser and the Ascendancy historians with the added 
bitterness characteristic of all of Irish blood who take 
this path, Maguire, of course, called the Irish dirty and 
the clergy a pack of rebels or abettors of rebels for not 
keeping their filthy flocks so stupefied with fasts and 
prayers and noses in the dust before all the Papist 
Mumbo-Jumbos that agitators would go out of business, 
and promised an Ulster invasion in the advent of Home 


TOT 



Rememhering Sion 

Rule that would be remembered when the massacres of 
Cromwell were as shadowy memories as Conn and Brian 
Boru. In all simplicity, the good Doctor admitted that 
there was one good thing in Ireland, but only one : Trinity 
College. It is worth turning over these dead and malig- 
nant pages to-day if only to be awed by the ironic 
comment of history on the argument which the Doctor 
started, Janies Pearse continued, and his son went far 
to clinch once and for all. “ Ulster ” rose in due course 
and the Devonshire man’s son died to dot all the “i’s” 
and cross all the “t’s” of his father’s pamphlet, England's 
Duty to Ireland as it Appears to an Englishman. This 
booklet is also worth reading to-day if only to find some- 
thing of Pearse’s polemical humour and eloquence in 
his father’s writings. In its day the pamphlet went 
through many editions and was widely quoted from the 
pulpit and in the Press. James Pearse had amazed his 
family circle by the strong language he used as he turned 
page after page of Doctor Maguire, exclaiming : “ I’ll 
teach the bloody fellow a lesson. He ought to rinse out 
his mouth.” Sometimes with a smile Pearse told in- 
quirers that his father was a quiet, artistic Englishman. 
But in hours of depression Pearse went to his father’s 
bookcases, full of jhistories of art, philosophy and the 
lives of great thinkers and doers. He used to take down 
the pamphlet bound in green cloth, read the closing 
lines and say with affectionate humour : “ For an English- 
man, he was not too bad!” There is a flash of Patrick 
Pearse in the opening lines of James Pearse’s pamphlet: 
“ In endeavouring to reply to this most extraordinary 
ebullition of quasi-religious-political fireworks, I shall 
endeavour not to follow the very bad example set by 
my opponent, the doctor of much learning and many 
adjuncts, of dressing up those with whom I disagree in 
the most shocking and degrading language which the 


Tn"* 



Remembering Sion 

English tongue can furnish.” And these are James 
Pearse's closing words : 

I say to the Government, and I say it with as loyal 
a heart as any Maguire that ever spoke, that England 
has no moral right to rule this country, except the result 
of that rule be the contentment, the prosperity and the 
real union which can only result from the willing 
obedience to the laws which are made by a free and 
satisfied people. Let this be done and we may reasonably 
expect that strife and bitterness may depart from the land 
in spite of all the professors and owls who hoot and 
screech from the walls of old Trinity,” 

Sometimes Pearse's mother drew a picture of Patrick 
Pearse about the time his father was engaged in these 
polemics. She often told this story, her merry eyes 
a-gleam behind her gold-rimmed spectacles and her black- 
white hair nodding above her pleasant fresh-coloured 
features. As an infant Pearse used to mount a chair, 
waving a green flag and chanting loudly at the top of 
his voice : 

Home Rule and Liberty^ that is our demand^ 

Nothing else will satisfy the people of our land! 

Another story she told has become famous for its hint 
of the future, and this story I heard William Pearse tell 
in his brother’s presence in 1915, We were having tea 
in the small cottage in Rosmuck, County Galway, 
whither Pearse retired once or twice a year to the 
Connacht of the bogs and lakes he loved. Outside 
rain fell and the Atlantic roared a mile away. It was a 
stirring month for all the quiet of the granite hills and 
peat around us, the month of the home-coming of 
O’Donovan Rossa, and Pearse sat at the table turning 
in his mind the phrases he would speak at the dead 
Fenian’s funeral, and Willie laughed shyly as he told the 

103 



Rememharing Sion 

talc: as an infant he had knelt down at his bedside at 
Pat’s command and they had both taken an oath to live 
for Ireland and die for Ireland when they grew up. 
Pearse smiled as Willie was half-way through the story, 
and the pair of them then laughed loudly together: 
when their mother returned they had told her of the oath 
they had taken, and she often repeated the story in the 
years to come, less and less humorously as the years 
lifted it from a childish prank to something solemn, whose 
telling could only be marked with tears. 

Pearse’s youth was introspective and studious, a thing 
more of dreams and books than games, and all his books 
were worn, scored and annotated. When he was twelve 
he began the study of Irish in the quaint texts and 
grammars of the Society for the Preservation of the 
Irish Language. Thomas MacDonagh used to tell of an 
early meeting of Pearse and Canon Peter O’Leary in a 
back room in Dame Street, and, according to MacDonagh, 
this was Pearse’s first contact with the Gaelic League. 
Canon OTeary showed Pearse his famous folk-novel 
Seadna^ and they read a few pages. Years before this 
remarkable man had had the whole course of his life 
changed by a direct question from a man equally remark- 
able: Archbishop MacHale, who spoke at a prize day 
at Maynooth College. Canon O’Leary had won a high 
place in the lists for his knowledge of ancient tongues, 
and then the Archbishop, who loved the Irish langiiage 
and translated Moore and Homer into Irish, asked the 
brilliant young men when they would ever awake to 
the treasures of the Irish language then already condemned 
as a vulgar dialect and doomed to death with ridicule and 
the call of America and tallies round children’s necks 
and a crack of a rod when a word of Irish was spoken. 
From this question sprang Canon O’Leary’s remarkable 
series of works, and he went to the living speech of 
104 



Remembering Sion 

Munster with a superb defiance of pedants and scholars, 
and spelled as he liked and wrote ^sop and an historical 
novel, and retold the old stories from the sagas and all the 
life of Munster as folk on the roads and round the fire- 
sides could understand them, and not a few cranky 
scholars dithering up in Dublin and patronising Erse 
and Celtic and never using eyes or ears outside a dusty 
library. Pearse’s glance at Seadna gave him the hint he 
needed : there was a living speech which told of devils’ 
pacts and horse fairs and fairy music and Seadna the 
shoemaker as happy as Faust on the heavenly hills in 
the heel of the hunt, brushing whole armies of Handy 
Andys, whole herds of Irish bulls, forests of blackthorns, 
legions of peasants lisping begorrahs on to tlie back 
shelves of libraries to be choked with dust. But Pearse 
found his spiritual home in the West and he had a deeper 
sense of literary values than any one else in the language 
movement. He became one of its most effective propa- 
gandists as an orator and writer. He reformed the whole 
system of teaching Irish after a close study of bilingualism 
in Belgium and Wales. As an educationalist, he stood 
alone. Before he was eighteen he had gained an amazing 
knowledge of the Irish language and literature — as his 
booklet published at that age, Three Essays on Gaelic 
Topics^ is one bewildering proof — and been elected on 
the Executive of the Gaelic League, Before he was 
twenty-four he had graduated in the Royal University, 
won his B.L. degree, of which he was heartily ashamed, 
and looked half-angry and half-ashamed if appealed to 
on a point of law, gained a scholarship in modern 
languages, been appointed Irish lecturer in the Catholic 
University College, editor of An Claidheamh Soluis (the 
Gaelic League official organ, The Sword of Light\ and 
secretary of the Gaelic League Publication Committee. 

It was these years in the Gaelic League which left 

105 



Remembering Sion 

Pearse the greatest but also the bitterest recollections of 
his life. The only approach to personal resentment and 
bitterness I ever remarked in him was when he some- 
times referred to old feuds of those clays: pedantic 
criticisms of his books and the attempts of cliques to 
prevent their publication, attacks on him as a moderate, 
and some crusty personalities with whom he clashed. But 
when all that was said, these years were the years of his 
youth, and of his youdi he has sung in his poem that he 
had wasted the glorious years, and had he the years he 
would waste them over again. Sometimes he would 
talk of more early memories, of his own school-days 
when he was a most model boy, except on one awful 
occasion when his schoolmaster had to gasp : “ And you, 
too, Patrick ! ” For an angry old gentleman had identified 
Patrick Pearse as one of the young ruffians who had taken 
part in the boisterous sport of “ blocking old fellows,” 
that is bawling nicknames and knocking off high hats. 
Dismissed with a stupefied shake of the head, Patrick 
Pearse, crimson, went back to his well-thumbed books 
and foreswore such sports for the future. Or a more 
pleasing recollection : himself, a small boy, trudging and 
pushing with pride through the crowds in the Dublin 
streets, a penny in his hand, trying in vain to buy an 
evening paper with news of the result of a Horae Rule 
division. Or the resentment he felt when he heard one 
of his teachers say in class : “ So Parnell’s dead, the dirty 
fellow!” And even in the fierce struggles of after years 
a memory of this time remained: John Redmond was 
his chief political enemy, but he could never forget that 
Redmond had stood by Parnell in the last crisis of all. 

Eight years filled the life of Patrick Pearse from the 
day we heard him speak in Cullenswood House. A 
formal chronicle would run: St. Enda’s College trans- 
ferred to the Hermitage, Rathfarnham, i9io' Dublin 
lod 



Remembering Sion 

Passion Play, Easter 191 1 ; An Barr Buadh (The Trumpet 
of Victory), 1912; From a Hermitage articles in Irish 
Freedom, the organ of the Irish Republican Brotherhood 
which he joins the same year, 1913 ; speech on foundation 
of Irish Volunteers, November 1913, and becomes 
member of their Provisional Committee and Director 
of Organisation; visits America and meets John Devoy, 
spring 1914; O’Donovan Rossa Oration, 1915 ; An 
Mhathair agus sgealta eile (The Mother and other stories), 
Heads’ Insurrection, Execution, May 1916. 

But these eight yeais for me are dominated by some- 
thing more human and living than a chronicle or a phrase 
or the latest facile legend of some partisan who burns 
all Pearse adored. 


107 



SEVEN 


I N the autumn of 1910 St. Encla’s College was trans- 
ferred to the Hermitage^ Rathfarnham* For some time 
I continued to cycle out there every day and back to 
Sandymount, where we had returned, and the Mount 
Street table was broken up* The most important thing 
that had happened in those two years to me was that 
the Irish language no longer remained hidden behind 
the beautiful type and I had wandered in the folk-world 
of Canon O’Leary and read in the original the stories I 
had heard long before under a London roof from Padraic 
O’Conaire. Once or twice I had crossed the seas and 
talked to my grandmother in 306 Camberwell New Road, 
and given her all the news of the city she still remained 
a citizen of at heart. Sometimes these journeys were 
sad journeys, as that when I returned to my grandfather’s 
funeral and saw my grandmother’s stricken look and 
knew my grandfather would never again mount the four 
flights in the mornings and fix the great clock over the 
Green with his telescope and read his books under the 
white globe. My uncle had vanished like a very poet 
and we never heard of him again. He had left some 
manuscripts of his poems behind. His solitary book of 
poems had just been published when he wandered off to 
death or some far American city, or for all I know to end 
his days in a monastery. At Dublin street corners some- 
times Padraic O’Conaire would ask of news of him, and 
tell a strange tale : my uncle was away teaching English 
to the Queen of Spain’s children; no, I must not laugh, 
such and such a man in Geneva or Paris had told Padraic 

in8 



Remembering Sion 

O’Conaire so as a fact. Then Padraic went back to 
yarns as glorious and fact-free as of old in the London 
voorriy including a remarkable journey of his own across 
Russia to meet Tolstoy, with whom he had held a long 
conversation, and Tolstoy had said that only one man 
had ever understood Tolstoy and that man was Padraic 
O’Conaire. 

Suddenly there came a great change in my life and I 
nearly went back to London, My father’s long struggle 
with his paper came to an end and he closed it down 
and returned to Fleet Street. Two men in Dublin 
decided that I ought to remain in Dublin. One was 
Jim Larkin, who offered my father to take me into his 
office. The second was Patrick Pearse, who asked me to 
come on to his staff and eventually act as his secretary. 
This second offer revealed a new side of Pearse to me 
as he made it. He came into a Freedom club lecture one 
evening and sat beside me. He said he had heard that my 
father had closed down his paper. Would I like to stay 
behind and teach in St. Enda’s,^ He would think over 
it and write to my father later. Pearse sank back on the 
bench and whispered several comments on the lecture. 
At this lime he had no formal connection with the 
revolutionary movement and was regarded with dis“ 
favour by the apostles of Mitchel and Tone since he 
had advocated acceptance of the Irish Council Bilk But 
he often visited any clubroom where there was a lecture 
on Emmet or Tone or a patriotic celebration. In private 
he was very caustic about the official revolutionaries, 
saying they were no use for anything else but talking. 
The Boer War proved it. If the Irish had meant half 
their fiery speeches they could have done something 
more than cheering Boer victories and risen in arms and 
chased tlie small British garrison of youths and Militia- 
men out of Ireland. Discipline, military discipline, was 



Rememhering Sinn 

needed for that. Otherwise, we had only rioting mobs 
a few policemen could disperse, while a few hysterical 
women made speeches, and a few old Fenians gathered 
over rooms in public houses and talked of old times. 
Whatever he had heard of the semi-moribund Irish 
Republican Brotherhood inspired him with profound 
distrust of that body, and he even advised several sup- 
porters of his to have nothing to do with it. But at this 
time he had definitely determined to inspire and lead a 
new revolutionary movement himself. This night was 
the first night I realised this. He sal apart, eager, silent 
and interested, his Stetson hat clasped in his hands and 
his greatcoat collar turned up. The lecture was on some 
historical subject by an expert, and Pearse disagreed in 
whispers to me at points here and there. At the close, 
Pearse challenged some statements and spoke with great 
force and deliberation, quoting Irish poetry profusely to 
prove that there was a separatist tradition which bridged 
the centuries, an argument familiar to all who know his 
last four political pamphlets. So far Pearse and the 
audience were at one, but when Pearse turned from the 
past to the present and criticised several speakers for their 
gibes at the Redmondites and asked where all this talk led, 
there was a change of temper. There were some sharp 
exchanges, and Pcarse’s plea for a charitable attitude 
towards the Irish Parliamentary Party drew taunts that 
he was a moderate very boorishly and ignorantly ex- 
pressed with all the crudity of exasperated doctrinaires. 
Pearse made a remarkable reply which ended: “Yes, 
give me a hundred men and I will free Ireland ! ” This 
daring simplicity was very characteristic, and the per- 
sonality behind it banished any suggestion of bombast 
or the ridiculous. The faith behind his words silenced 
the critics and commanded respect, for a few days later 
the most outspoken of Pearse’s opponents at the meeting 



Rememhering Sion 

sent him an unreserved apology for any rudeness. As 
we left the meeting Pearse's eyes burned and he talked 
all the way to the Rathfarnham tram at the Pillar, saying 
intensely: ‘'Let them talk! I am the most dangerous 
revolutionary of the whole lot of themh’ Again in the 
words was a faith and a simplicity. 

Pearse never was a Sinn Feiner in the strictest sense 
of the words. His political writings contain indeed very 
outspoken criticisms of Arthur Griffith, whom he blamed 
for repelling the more vital and Irish-Ireland elements of 
the Irish Party by nagging personalities and carping 
criticism. His views at this time are best expressed in his 
O’Connell Street speech in March 1912, views for which 
he never apologised and never retracted even in his 
final statements of his political faith. That speech was 
delivered at Dublin’s last great Home Rule demonstra- 
tion. Three green flags towered over three platforms 
in the main street, where thousands of citizens cheered 
wildly and waved miniature replicas of the floating 
emerald and harp as a carriage drove slowly by with 
Mr, Joseph Devlin, M.P., smiling, bowing and turning on 
a spit, as it were, to the roasting applause of the roaring 
multitude. Wee Joe” went onward to his platform 
near the General Post Office, backed by the old windows 
of the Freemans Journal He bounded forward with his 
tiny green flag and yelled above all the frantic plaudits: 

This is Ireland’s answer to the taunt that she does not 
want Home Rule!” Another shattering roar from the 
citizens and Wee Joe dived into a whirlpool of popular 
oratory. “ Devlin is a good speaker,” said Pearse after- 
wards. “ He knows how to please the people.” Pearse 
stood up, shy, austere, alone and spoke in Irish in the 
future shade of his last stand. Mr. Devlin listened to 
him in respectful silence and in due course sent him a 
letter of thanks, regretting he could not understand his 

TIT 



Rememhering Sion 

speech, but hoping for his eloquent aid in future. Yet 
Pearse spoke in the accents of the future; “ We do not 
seek to destroy the British Empire, we seek Irish freedom. 
We are all agreed in this : it is our duty, willy-nilly, to 
achieve freedom for our race. Some of us would be 
content to remain under the lordship of the English Icing, 
others (and I am with them) have never bent their knees 
or bowed their head to the King of England, and never 
shall. But I feel I should betray my people if I had not 
answered this call to-day, since it is clear to me that this 
Home Rule Bill here recommended to us will make for 
the advantage of the Irish and strengthen them in their 
struggle. He who is of that mind would be a coward 
if he withheld his aid. Do not think that I recommend 
the Home Rule Bill beforehand, for perhaps we shall 
have to reject it. But we do say to-day that henceforth 
Ireland’s voice shall be heard. Our patience is spent. 
With one voice here to-day two hundred thousand Gaels 
proclaim that they demand freedom and of themselves 
mean to achieve freedom. Let us band ourselves together 
and wring it from our foes. I think a good measure can 
be wrested from them if we but take courage. But if we 
are tricked again, there is a band of men in Ireland, to 
whom I myself belong, who will advise Irishmen and 
Irishwomen to have neither council nor friendship with 
England, but to answer with the strong hand and the 
edge of the sword. Let England clearly understand: if 
we are again betrayed there shall be a red war throughout 
Ireland.^’ 

Whenever I recall Pearse he is addressing crowds 
like that or talking quietly to boys in another accent 
or chatting with an old man on the Connemara roads. 
Behind Pearse rises a Dublin hall and a lecture finishing 
and the audience moving out, and Pearse rises and they 
remain: Pearse will say something worth listening to. 



Remembering Sion 

Or there rises the Hermitage five miles away from 
Dublin, that grey, square, three-storey eighteenth-century 
mansion, two stone lions on guard over the entrance gate, 
a wooded avenue winding to the front door behind high 
stone columns. Kilted groups of boys play riotously in 
the hurling field or wander through the woods curiously 
regarding pseudo antiques, Pagan, Christian and Celtic, 
which a former owner had scattered through the fifty 
acres to bemuse posterity and please himself, but Patrick 
Pearse sees at a glance that various Ogham inscriptions 
are wrong and the cromlech John O’Donovan perhaps 
in jest marked down in his survey as genuine is a dud 
of duds. Trees wave and the swaying greenery ever 
dimmer sweeps towards the Bay and Howth across 
miles of fields and the roofs of Dublin. Behind rises the 
blunt and purple mountains under the blue and amber 
in which the sun shoots downward to rest. A bell is 
ringing and in twos and threes the boys follow a vener- 
able, bald and bespectacled man indoors. His black gown 
floats round his shoulders and he waves with graceful 
and deliberate gestures. A horse chews the long grass 
in a meadow near-by. But Dr. Patrick Doody, a learned 
man and conscientious, just then better known to his 
classical students as Mox, dismisses all the beauty of the 
landscape with a wave, for it is not on any programme 
and to programmes he is bound like any Jinn in an 
Arabian tale coming at a rub of ring or lamp. He hurries 
the boys into the Study Hall and rules the silence with 
his steel-cold eye and then bends over some red-bound 
tome of Greece or Rome. 

Under the Grecian colonnade in front of the grey house 
Pearse and his brother and Thomas MacDonagh pace the 
gravelled path, while above them loom the windows 
which have seen Emmet pass and the great rows of 
trees encircle them, where Curran’s voice had sounded 
H II^ 



Rememhering Sion 

a century before as he strode down the path through 
the iron gates to his house, the Priory, across the roads 
as unheeding of tragedy in his witty moods as these 
three men held by their jokes and debate. William 
Pcarse is a slight, long-faced man with a lisp and 
melancholy eyes and dark hair sweeping back in a curve 
above his forehead. He is the real companion of his 
brother. He it was who made the young idea wipe its 
boots on the mat and keep its fork in its left hand and 
answer all bells promptly. He it was who managed 
plays and pageants and guided clumsy fingers round 
circles and curves in the drawing class, where he found 
one stubborn critic he could never subdue, but who 
watched him and won fame and died tragically too away 
in New York, Patrick Tuohy, who laughed in all his 
classes with one hand in his pocket and dashed off 
irreverent caricatures with the other, and Willie with a 
quiet smile in the class let him go his way, admitting 
he has not much to teach him. In due course Thomas 
MacDonagh returns to his lodge half a mile away on the 
Dundrum road with his little dog frisking round him, 
Marabhain with slender brown body and knowing eyes 
and shrill bark. The poet and his dog are well known 
on the Rathfarnham roads as Thomas goes with his long 
neck- tie floating in the wind talking to any one for hours 
on anything. He lives in his little lodge rather than in 
the Plermitage for solitude and freedom. He respects 
Pearse too much to be quite at ease with him, for Thomas 
must argue or die. Thomas knows Pearse could not 
endure religious controversy, but Thomas must thrash 
out all such questions with those so inclined and he has 
a more robust humour than Pearse and wider interests. 
He is more a European, he says himself, and cannot get 
to the heart of Gaeldom so profoundly as Pearse. There 
are moments when the native speakers and the Gaelthacht 
1 14 



Remembering Sion 

bore him stiff and he returns to Elizabethan poetry and 
France and Greece and Rome, and rounds it all off with 
a night with the poets in his little lodge, and A. E. comes 
and smokes his pipe and drinks a modest glass with 
Thomas when Thomas has it, begad, and if not, begad, 
A. E. goes without, “ only an inch, in any case, like 
Emerson offered Whitman, saying: ‘ Walt, well see the 
dawn!"” And sometimes Padraic Colum and James 
Stephens arrive, and one Hallow Eve they melted all his 
window- weights and cast magic spells, and in the morning 
Thomas cooks his breakfast on a flaring petrol stove and 
hurries down to the Hermitage with an armful of books 
ready to talk the head oft' everybody. On quiet evenings 
Thomas busies himself with his poems and the Irish 
Review. He always halts near the two St. Enda lions 
over the iron gate to converse with Micheal Mag Ruadhri, 
who is Pearse’s gardener, and watches the boys who covet 
the apples in the great garden, for Thomas knows that 
MicheaFs quaint blue eyes are too weak to read print; 
but his mind is a very library of Mayo proverbs and 
legends, and Micheal can dictate a history with only one 
pause for breath and chant a Rabelaisian or reverent 
Gaelic rann in his greenhouses as the mood takes him, 
and well deserves every one of the seven gold medals 
he has won for oratory, and if Micheal prefers to wear 
all seven medals on a velvet board pinned to his lapel 
on feast days, that is his affair. For though there are 
Gaels who bore Thomas, Micheal is not one, and Thomas 
is all for Micheal’s efforts to save the apples in that 
eighteenth-century garden, though Patrick Pearse thinks 
it only human for the boys to raid the apple trees, how- 
ever grimly he lectures the raiders in his study. 

Patrick Pearse smiled quietly to himself over the 
comedies of the inside life of St. Enda’s. He knew his 
pupils very well down to the nicknames they honoured 

115 



Retnemhering Sion 

him with, and chuckled in private at the pride and reflected 
glory some of them were conscious of as his fosterlings. 
His heart is with the romping boys in the dormitories he 
can still with a look, but he will have no silence rule at 
meals and his fifty boys can make what din they like 
until he restores quiet by rising and turning them into 
the hurling field. Shortly after the Insurrection an 
American visitor was shown over the Hermitage and 
walked in silence from room to room. He saw every- 
where the stamp of Patrick Pearse, from the library with 
its hundreds of volumes of the rarest and most chosen 
Gaelic texts, its choice editions of Shakespeare, its rows 
of Irish histories from Keating to Madden, to the class- 
rooms and dormitories and Study Hall. He walked under 
the great oaks and elms and copper beeches and looked 
towards the Bay through the high frontal porchway, and 
said sadly: “His friends should have contrived some 
plan to keep Pearse out of militant politics, for surely his 
true work was here.” Many readers of the Murder 
Machine — his indictment of the Irish educational system 
of his time — must have felt a like misgiving despite 
Pearse’s insistence on the necessity of freedom before 
any real effective re-creation of education was possible. 
One of his cares as the end drew near was the conscious- 
ness that the collapse of his college would disappoint 
some very staunch supporters. He was determined to 
keep its gold and white banner afloat over his fifty pupils, 
and would have mourned the day when its envelopes with 
armed hero seal and Ossianic motto, “ Truth on our 
lips, strength in our hands and cleanness in our hearts,” 
should brighten the post no more. “ I don’t want to 
found a school just to smash it up,” he said when he 
first faced that choice in the crisis of 1912 and promptly 
suppressed a small militant Gaelic weekly he had founded, 
and then by sheer will-power saved St. Enda’s and pulled 
il<i 



Rememhering Sion 

it through with a profit of fifty pounds to the good when 
its most convinced supporters had thought its plight 
desperate — as it would have been long before except for 
Pearse's iron effort and sacrifice. Year after year he and 
his brother went without salary, and at the last would 
have succeeded beyond a doubt had the times been less 
complex and Pearse not heard a more urgent call to 
action. That was inevitable, and were he to return to-day 
his critics would be hard put to it to have the best of the 
argument for all Sean O’Casey’s splashing of Pearse’s 
ardent rhetoric with acid and Sir James O’Connor’s time- 
serving cant about eleutheromania. Even to-day Pearse 
can still speak for himself in his political pamphlets and 
in his great personal testament, The Singer. The old fire 
burns clearly there, the old fire of his occasional simple- 
hearted remark to a friendly crowd of sceptics : “To hold 
out against England for an hour, imagine ! How glorious 
that would be]” Yet it was possible to quizz Pearse 
about this eagerness of his to end his days on a scaffold, 
although so sincere and fundamental a mood was this 
with him that in the Hermitage we rarely tried this. He 
would laugh but the jest would seem to stab something 
deep within him, though he could enjoy jokes about his 
extremism. For instance, he once wrote month by month 
a boys’ serial, The Wandering Hawk^ for Tianna^ the organ 
of Madame de Marcievicz’s boy scouts. He based the 
story on the life of St. Enda’s College and drew a very 
humorous picture of himself as the Headmaster under 
the flippant nickname of “ Old Snuffy.” Once he had 
scruples that the story was becoming too melodramatic. 
He shook his head and paused over the pages of the current 
instalment scattered over the table in his bold and very 
clear handwriting. He appealed to some of us and read 
some sentences aloud: it was too absurd, he had just 
wrecked a gunboat, would that do, did we think ? “ Good 

ir? 



Remernhering Sion 

heavens,” said one of us, “ only one gunboat ! How- 
moderate! Why not half the British Fleet?” This 
restored his confidence. Laughing heartily, Pearse -went 
ahead -with his -writing, chuckling to himself until he had 
finished the chapter. Then he gave the group of critics 
a shre-wd thrust or two at weak points in their own 
armour. He was not going to let us get away with it so 
easily. 

Pearse himself noted the change in his outlook when 
he moved out to Rathfarnham into the Flermitage, so 
closely linked with the tragedy of Emmet in its historical 
associations. Where in Cullenswood House he had 
spoken of the Fionn and Cuchulainn sagas and succeeded 
admirably in realising his bilingual programme in the 
Hermitage, he spoke oftener to his boys of past efforts 
to gain Irish independence and he realised less his early 
ideals of an Irish-speaking school. His own picture of 
these years is to be found in The Story of a Success. There 
he gives his own ideals and the school as he saw it, 
although he is silent about the things which depressed 
and hampered him : frequent changes of staff, which made 
it harder to carry out his first plans fully for an Irish- 
speaking school, new pupils not quite so promising as 
his first forty on the opening day, the burden of building 
debts, a lack of general support and a growing political 
prejudice against him. But even here in the Idermitage 
there was no undue political propaganda except where 
Irish history retold is in itself a very powerful visualisation 
of the great men and the great glories and great mistakes 
of the past and a very powerful incentive to youth to seek 
future national movements free from time-weary blunders. 
Those of his pupils who evenmally took part in the 1916 
Insurrection might well have done so had they never met 
Pearse, for great as Pearse was as a kindler to action he 
cannot be held responsible for the home associations and 
ti8 



Rememheting Sion 

the national movements which had already moulded the 
characters and outlook of the odd twenty or so senior 
and ex-students of liis who joined him. Probably the 
associations of the Hermitage swayed Pearse more than 
Pearse swayed the majority of his pupils. If a locality 
can preserve the past and haunt a receptive mind with 
past good or evil, assuredly the Hermitage haunted the 
mind and personality of Pearse. Across the road from 
the Hermitage stands the Priory, the old home of John 
Philpot Curran, where Robert Emmet had wooed and 
dreamed in his day. Robert Emmet's memory haunted 
Pearse, and this haunting is clamant throughout Pearse's 
later speeches : he seems to see Emmet tapping his cane 
along the Rathfarnham roads, rambling through the 
Hermitage grounds and plucking grapes from the vines 
or lying hidden among the heather on Kilmashogue 
Mountain, which Pearse could see from his study 
windows, or standing on a scaffold before a silent Dublin 
crowd. Deep spoke to deep, he said of Mitchel, and that 
was true of Pearse. From his writings the figure of the 
man rises again to-day. In his first writings one finds 
the scholar brooding over the saga of Cuchulainn until 
its chivalry burns in him as Homer and Milton burned 
in Shelley through dark hours and shattered visions. 
But it is from his panegyric of Emmet rather than his 
panegyric of Tone that flames into life the Pearse we 
knew in the Hermitage. He follows Emmet's footsteps 
from the Hermitage to Dublin with the only difference 
that he can cry in the end exultantly that where Emmet 
held out for a two-hours' riot compromised by bunglers 
and a ghastly murder of a noble judge, Pearse has held 
out for a week and hopes for the future, and the immediate 
future, too. This is how he would speak of Emmet, and 
really sketch himself: 

There are in every generation those who shrink from 

119 



Rememhering Sion 

the ultimate saciifice, but there are in every generation 
those who make it with joy and laughter, and these are 
the salt of the generations, the heroes who stand midway 
between God and man. Patriotism is in large part a 
memory of heroic dead men and a striving to accomplish 
some task left unfinished by them. Had they not gone 
before, made their attempts, and suffered the sorrow of 
their failures, we should long ago have lost the tradition 
of faith and service, having no memory in the heart or 
any unaccomplished dream. . . . This the heroes have 
done for us ; for their spirits indwell in the place where 
they lived, and the hills of Ireland must be rent and her 
cities levelled with the ground and all her children driven 
out upon the seas of the world before those voices are 
silenced that bid us be faithful still and to make no peace 
with England until Ireland is ours. ... I live in a place 
very full of heroic memories. In the room in which I 
work in at St. Enda’s College, Robert Emmet is said 
often to have sat; in our garden is a vine which they 
call Emmet's Vine and from which he is said to have 
plucked grapes; through our wood runs a path which 
is called Emmet's path — they say that he and Sarah 
Curran walked there ; at an angle of our boundary wall 
there is a little fortified lodge called Emmet's Fort, 
Across the road from us is a thatched cottage whose 
tenant in 1803 was in Green Street Courthouse all the 
long day that Emmet stood on trial, with a horse saddled 
without that he might bring news of the end to Sarah 
Curran. Half a mile from us across the fields is Butter- 
field House, where Emmet lived the days preceding the 
rising. . . , And his death was august. In the great 
space of Thomas Street an immense silent crowd; in 
the front of St. Catherine’s Church a gallows upon a 
platform; a young man climbs to it, quiet, serene, almost 
silent, they say — ah, he was very brave ; there is no cheer 



Remembering Sion 

from the crowd, no groan; this man is about to die for 
them, but no man dares to say aloud, ‘ God bless you, 
Robert Emmet/ Dublin must one day wash out in blood 
the shameful memory of that acquiescence. ... A friend 
of mine knew an old woman who told him how the blood 
flowed down upon the pavement, and how she sickened 
with horror as she saw the dogs of the street lap up that 
noble blood. . . . We are so dominated by the memory of 
that splendid death of his . . . that we forget the life of 
which that death was only the necessary completion. . . . 
And his task was just such a task as some of us have 
undertaken: he had to go through the same repellent 
routine of work ... he had the same sordid difliculties 
as we have, yea, even the vulgar difficulty of want of 
funds. And he had the same poor human material to 
work with, men who misunderstood, men who bungled, 
men who talked too much. ... Yes, the task we take 
up again is just Emmet's task of silent unattractive work 
. , . cherishing in our hearts the mighty hope that to 
us, though so unworthy, it may be given to bring to 
accomplishment the thing he left unaccomplished, but 
working on even when that hope dies within us/' ^ 

This very long extract shows the best and worst of 
Pearse. Only his own personality and sincerity lift parts 
of it from platitude and the harldng on bloodshed and the 
rhetorical appeal to varied audiences from sentimental 
Yankees who never saw Dublin in their lives to the 
boys of Fianna Eireann to avenge the dog-lapped blood 
of Emmet, has left him open to very severe criticism even 
from sympathisers. For one thing diis note was struck 
with a frequency that became monotonous in Pearse's 
speeches. It recurred with an almost sinister frequency 
towards the end and once infuriated a master in the act 
of rousing the populace to arms, James Connolly, to a 

^ Political Writings f First Edition, pp. « 5 ( 5 ~ 82 , 



Remembering Sion 

bitter comment which wounded Pearse deeply. Pearse 
wrote when both men were planning armed revolt on 
the eve of Christmas 1915: ''‘The last sixteen months 
have been the most glorious in the history of Europe. . . . 
It is good for the world that such things should be done. 
The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the 
red wine of the battlefields. Such august homage was 
never offered to God as this, the homage of millions of 
lives given gladly for love of country.” Connolly was 
so infuriated with this sentence that he went out of his 
way to answer an imaginary correspondent in his paper, 
somewhat in these terms: “No, we do not think that 
the old heart of the earth needs to be warmed with the 
red wine of millions of lives. We think any one who does 
is a blithering idiot. Wc are sick of such teaching, and 
the world is sick of such teaching. We also utterly 
loathe and despise all the mouthers about war in times 
of peace and preachers of peace in times of war who 
infest this island.” Pearse looked very hurt when he 
opened his copy of Connolly^s paper and read this fierce 
comment on an article he was very proud of. Pie shook 
his head and said truly enough and with great emphasis : 
“ There is not a line in my article with which Connolly 
should not agree Pearse’s defence of liis lyrical appeals 
to the sword and his gospel of blood-sacrifice was that 
he sincerely believed in them and was prepared to stake 
his own life on their truth. He also contended he was 
more honest and more logical than those who had de- 
nounced force to free Ireland, but who at the moment 
he wrote Peace and the Gael — the article which infuriated 
Connolly and afterwards with several other sentences 
torn from their context elsewhere in Pearse enriched 
O’Casey’s Plough and the Star ^ — were moving heaven 
and earth to make Irishmen use force against the Germans. 
His glorification of war expressed itself in a violent 



Rememhering Sion 

dislike of the writings of Tolstoy : he could find no merit 
in the Russian's short stories and novels, and refused even 
to consider their claims as literature. His worship of 
military discipline was fanatical to the point of absurdity. 
Until the 1913 Strike turned his mind to Connolly's 
writings, which left a deep mark on his thought, he feared 
the Irish Labour movement and the friendly relations witli 
British Labour unions as a danger to Nationalism. His 
early desire to live in history was so intense as to be almost 
insane. And always in him there was a curious conflict 
between the dreamer and the doer. 

When the Devil's Advocate comes to judge the leaders 
of the Irish Revolution, he will urge in the case of Pearse 
a similarity to the world-figure of Lenin in this at least: 
they both were men of one book, but added to their one 
book. Lenin may have based his beliefs, tactics and 
actions upon Marx, whom he studies line by line, beating 
all the theologians and exegetes who ever lived with his 
wanderings through the mazes of Capital^ down to the 
last word of his master. So too with Pearse and his 
Four Fathers of the Nationalist Church: Tone, Mitchel, 
Davis and Lalor. As Marx found his inspiration in 
Hegel, Ricardo and French revolutionary history, and 
Lenin in Marx plus a hundred years of Russian revolt, 
so Pearse built upon his Four Fathers with a dash of 
Catholicism and Gaelicism, And hke Marx and Lenin, 
what is splendid in the masters becomes tawdry in the 
disciples, what is noble and personal in Pearse's borrowed 
accents becomes monotonous cant on a hundred Irish 
political platforms after his death. This is no reproach 
to Pearse. Undoubtedly he developed logically enough 
the ideals and teachings he found in his Four Fathers as 
the very mouthpiece of the rising National movement, 
for eighteen years after his death his teaching reveals its 
vitality. His flaming idealism is the noblest creed Ireland 

123 



Remcmharing Sion 

ever knew. His flash of intuition on the eve of 1916 
that now was the opportune moment to strike was 
justified by the result. To have known Pearse was to 
realise his sincerity and unselfishness and fundamental 
health of minch 

But the DeviFs Advocate will urge^ provoked more by 
the successors of Pearse than Pearse himself, that though 
Pearse has been vindicated by results and by history, that 
his own temperament coloured his views, and ponder 
how far personal disillusion and ambition shaped his 
acts and outlook. Only very simple-minded admirers 
or very dishonest politicians can ignore this question, 
and to ignore it to-day is no service to Pearse or to truth. 
There was a disconcerting side to Pearse, especially in 
his earlier years. No honest portrait can hide certain 
shadows: a Napoleonic complex which expressed itself 
in a fanatical glorification of war for its own sake, an 
excess of sentiment which almost intoxicated him both 
on the platform and in private ventures, a recklessness 
in action and the narrow outlook of a very respectable 
Dubliner who has never left his city or family circle for 
very long. This is the very worst that the DeviFs 
Advocate will be able to advance against Patrick Pearse. 
He had no petty vices nor meannesses, and to live with 
him was to fall under his persuasive spell. He was a 
recluse and a mystic, and no reader of the above list of 
possible grounds of criticism against Patrick Pearse should 
fail to correct them by Pearse^s own personal defence in 
his poems, The Rebel and The Fool^ and his play, The 
Singer^ all written in answer to his own heart-searchings 
on the eve of the Insurrection. The testimony of his 
friends is unanimous : they all loved him even when his 
faults stood out before their eyes. Pearse towered over 
the Ireland of his time, a man who meant what he said 
and died and lived for it. His writings, including his 
124 



Rememhering Sion 

polemical writings, have stood the test of time: they are 
readable even when the events they deal with are un- 
familiar to the reader. 

There were strange contradictions in this great man, 
a man so great that it goes against the grain to have to 
search for the flaws in him as one remembers how he 
soared over the provincial and Anglicised Ireland of his 
early years and confounded the time-serving politicians 
of his later days, and with open eyes walked to death 
with all his hopes in ruin around him. Although his 
ideal was the sword, he could not cut a loaf to save his 
life or shave himself even with a safety razor, or for all 
his lyrics to smoking battlefields bear the sight of human 
suffering without squirming, but he would watch all night 
beside an ailing pupil, and on the eve of his surrender he 
soothed a wounded British soldier to sleep with gentle 
words. He could keep a whole school of riotous boys 
in order with a look, or Idll himself by inches with several 
arduous undertakings which would have crushed most 
men, but muse over a butterfly’s wings for hours when 
his conscience told him he should be busy with his school 
programme. He knew what he wanted when he was 
little more than a youth, and accomplished everything to 
which his essentially noble ambition moved him, but at 
times his impetuosity imperilled things dear to Mm. A 
colleague has quoted a criticism of him : “ Pearse could 
never wait.” This recklessness in action was well ex- 
emplified in his conduct of St. Enda’s College, where, 
when his experiment was threatened by debts incurred by 
a lack of support he justly resented, he not only plunged 
boldly into greater debt by even bolder developments — 
for instance he moved out to Rathfarnham, necessarily 
losing half his pupils and increased Ms burden — but he 
allowed himself distractions like y^fn Barr Buadh, for 
which in calmer moments he blamed himself severely 

12 ? 



Rememhering Sion 

for undertaking. His brother was to a large extent the 
brake on this recklessness of Pearse, for Willie never 
scrupled to tell him the truth even about a bad speech, 
and was capable of the reproach ; “ Pat, you made a 
rotten speech this evening. You repeated yourself and 
dragged on and on until the poor people were bored 
stiff I ” 

Pearse listened most courteously to all critics and went 
on doing as he liked until Willie lisped his fierce word. 
Pearse had one stock defence to all criticisms of his 
actions : he could not stand still till he rotted, and it was 
better to do something than nothing, and Ireland was full 
of those who criticised and never did anything. His 
remorse, however, on occasion, could be comical. Once 
he had told all his senior students that all things were 
possible where there was a will ; where there was a will 
a man could be king of Ireland or master the toughest 
Latin verb. Then after a severe school crisis, when his 
will and nothing else had pulled the school through, he 
confessed that it was best not to try the will on impossible 
obstacles or you made a fool of yourself. “ I was mad !” 
he said to me after this same school crisis and his sup- 
pression of his above-mentioned Trumpet of Victory, 
“ to start such a paper when the school was trembling 
in the balance. Why didn’t you stop me.^” This very 
question he had asked me when we visited a printing 
office to look over the proofs of the first issue, but he 
asked the question highly delighted with the appearance 
of the paper and with a joyous anticipation of the furious 
letters certain Gaelic enthusiasts would bombard him with 
for printing his paper in Roman type and his caustic open 
letters to political celebrities. He managed, too, to publish 
some of his finest poems in An Barr Buadh before he 
recovered his sanity and asked the question a second time. 
He followed it up by an open letter to himself in the paper 



Remembering Sion 

poking fun at himself. He gravely twitted himself for 
being a dark cloud over any social gathering, and asked 
whether his English blood were responsible or whether 
there were not two Pearses, one grim and aloof, the second 
a jocund orator capable of kindling listening hosts at 
will. He declared in the end that he is in doubt as to 
which Pearse is which, and advises him to stick to his 
schoolmastering and play no more blasts on his Trumpet 
of Victory. Nor did he but at once shut down the paper 
and threw all his energy into saving his school. Pearse 
in his dashing moods struck you as quite insane, but as one 
who knew he was and one with whom it was pleasanter to 
go mad than with all the solid, sensible folk in the world. 

One who knew the late John Dillon said that Dillon 
was never more grief-stricken in his life than when he 
heard the news of Patrick Pearse’s death, nor so angry 
as when he heard of Willie Pearse's, Similar were the 
reactions of the Dubliners, to whom the Brothers Pearse 
were familiar figures. They were inseparable. Some- 
times you would see them passing down the Hermitage 
avenue at the head of their pupils, laughing, talking, 
striding along en route for an excursion or play rehearsal. 
Or perhaps behind the scenes in the Abbey Theatre, busy 
with a Passion Play or distributing heroic gear and garb. 
Again, seated in their small room in the Hermitage base- 
ment in strenuous debate, where Willie scrupled not to 
tell Pat just what he ought to be told or contradicted him 
stoutly or talked till a late hour over bills and books. 
Their mother watched them, laughing or admonishing 
them. When the times grew tenser she would wait up 
for them in spite of all their warnings that they would 
not return until four. 

Behind the Brothers Pearse stood Margaret Pearse, and 
it is impossible to understand them without knowing what 
kind of a woman she was. 


127 



EIGHT 


T WO sentences in The Singer light up Margaret Pearse 
as her sons knew her. The first is spoken by MacDara, 
the unknown leader of the insurgents, who suddenly 
reveals himself and goes out alone to save the people by 
his death, unarmed: “ ’Tis women who keep all the great 
vigils.” The second is spoken by MacDara’s mother, 
Maire Nf Fhiannachta, to his sweetheart, Sighle: “ I am 
his mother. Don’t 1 know every fibre of his body.'* 
Don’t 1 know every thought of his mind.^ He never 
told me, but well I knew.” And Pearse sketches his 
mother again in his story The Keening Woman, when he 
describes the mother who would “ have pity in her heart 
for Cain and for Judas and for Diarmuid of the Gall.” 
It was from her people with their memories of battles 
and gibbets in County Meath in one of the most tragic 
years of Irish history that Pearse as we have seen first 
drank of Irish speech and folk-tale and ballad, and the 
militant tradition ran on down to her own father, who 
had been a Fenian. All her life Margaret Pearse kept a 
great vigil, for though she made more jokes than any 
woman who ever lived and was cheerful and great- 
hearted, she would tell you simply that she had never 
known peace of mind for many years before her husband’s 
death, fifteen years of business worry, the health of her 
children, and then the shadow of the coming loss of her 
sons, which shadowed her from 1913, when the Irish 
Volunteers were founded. 

For all her sorrows her hair was long speckled with 
black, and though as long as I can remember her she wore 



Rememhering Sion 

black tooj her merry grey-blue eyes and honest laugh 
banished all the sombre and morbid from her company. 
She was quiet and industrious and many who came to 
Cullenswood House and the Hermitage hardly knew 
her. Yet she ran the house with her all hands must do 
this/’ and can’t all hands do that/’ and could miss a 
train three times in one day and see the joke against 
herself and yet remain indignant to the end because her 
family twitted her with sitting through a whole per- 
formance of Charley s Aunt waiting for the fun to begin. 
There was an iron beneath her softness: in later years 
she chaffed the Black and Tans to their teeth when she 
met them on their raiding parties, and fixed them with a 
shattering look which lowered their revolvers and their 
truculent voices- Once a blustering raider struck her 
with a revolver and howled: ''Mother of Pearse, eh? 
What about the men your murder gang have killed? 
Had they no mothers?” She silenced him with one 
question; " Oh, had you?” 

Margaret Pearse lived for her sons. '' She thinks Pat 
is a young god ! ” muttered an angry relative to me once, 
but with this I could not agree, for I had a vivid recollec- 
tion of Pearse showing his weakest side to his mother. 
He could stand anything except a room without a fire, 
and had followed her from room to room with over- 
clouded face, murmuring dolefully. It was amusing to 
watch Pearse’s submissive affection to his mother. Even 
on Easter eve, when she said good-hye to him at the 
Hermitage gate and he was marching down into Dublin, 
ready to tackle the greatest British Army known to 
history, she had said: " Now, Pat, above all, do nothing 
rash!” and he had dutifully replied: "No, mother.” 
Often she told me what a good son he had been, running 
his father’s business after Iiis death so that Willie could 
complete his art studies, and shouldering an old debt of 

I 17 ^ 



Retnctnhering Sion 

Ills father’s as a debt of honour although the debt had 
been caused through James Pcarse’s hatred of litigation 
and due in the first case to the dishonesty of another, but 
endured by the Governor ” rather than call in those 
devils of lawyers. She was proud of the Governor,” 
and this pride flashed out on that Easter morning when 
eleven of us marched out of the Hermitage to join 
Patrick Pearse and she insisted on sewing a Sacred Heart 
badge on all our coats and heard with mingled grief and 
anger of orders and counter-orders, saying: Oh, is he 
to be deserted now ? Well, good-bye, boys, and remember 
this. If you ever are free, it is the son of an Englishman 
who will have freed you!” And this giey hour was 
lighted with a certain humour, for we remembered the 
many injunctions she had addressed to us as well as her 
sons, not to be rash. There was that day in the lower 
room when Pearse had come in tired in trying days when 
he expected arrest and dropped his glove with the auto- 
matic revolver inside on the table and blushed and laughed 
wdien she asked: “ Good heavens, Pat, whatever is that 
for? ” And he whose intervention at Easter and before 
had in fact saved the lives of these political detectives 
known to Dublin as G-men,” answered half-humbly 
and half-defiantly : G-men, mother!” Her humour 
was more aroused by the evidence of a Dublin policeman 
against Pearse in a case which was dismissed on a charge 
of refusing to halt a motor-car when called upon. He 
said, your Worship, my name is Peaise, and I defy the 
law and all that appertains thereto!” Margaret Pearse 
enjoyed Pearse’s indignation that he should be charged 
with using such stilted English and his amazed look as 
he read and re-read the evidence in the paper. 

Three passions inspired Margaret Pearse : God, Ireland 
and her children. Her religion would flash up in some 
quiet phrase : she could not bear to watch the long rows 
130 



Retnemhering Sion 

of Communicants in the Dublin churches without joining 
them, “ to share with them the Bread and Life, to share 
with them the Living Word on a Good Friday she 
would defy her doctor and half a dozen priests and keep 
a Black Fast: to her all spite, malice, envy, slander and 
uncharitableness were things remote and abhorred, and 
in this she was like Pearse himself and valued the com- 
pliment some one once paid Pearse in an argument about 
the alleged shortcomings of some political celebrity. She 
had protested: “Pat never said a word against him.” 
And she treasured the retort: “ Don’t quote that man to 
me again. He never said a bad word against any one.” 
To her the war for Irish freedom was the most holy of 
wars, although when I knew her in Cullenswood House 
and the first year or two at the Hermitage she had the 
vaguest notions about politics, and would ask, with seem- 
ing innocence at least: “Now what is the difference 
between Home Rule and Separation.^” She had no very 
definite political creed, but she had a deep national instinct 
and a hatred in her very bones of the English domination 
of Ireland. “ My good woman,” she once told a critic 
of the Irish Volunteers, “ don’t argue with me about 
ambushes. Why, you will find ambushes in the Bible ! ” 
And she waved her hand and laughed her merry laugh. 
Her ideas about right and wrong were very clear, and 
she had no rancour, although this very simplicity and 
goodness of heart left her open to be used by more astute 
folk than herself, especially if the clinching argument 
that “ Pat would have done this ” or “ Pat would have 
said that ” could be dragged in by hook or by crook. 
This is clearly shown in the speech she made against the 
1922 Treaty, and as the speech reveals herself very well 
it may be quoted now: it was of deep and ironical 
interest to me then and since as Mrs. Pearse appealed to 
a conversation Pearse had once had with me, and from 

nr 



Remembering Sion 

that conversation then and now I drew very different 
conclusions : 

I rise to support the motion of our President for the 
rejection of this Treaty. My reasons for doing so are 
various, but my first reason for doing so is on my sons’ 
account. It has been said here on several occasions that 
Padraic Pearse would have accepted this Treaty. I deny 
it, and on his account I will not accept it. Neither would 
his brother Willie accept it, because his brother was part 
and parcel of him. I am proud to say to-day that Padraic 
Pearse was a follower and disciple, and a true disciple, 
of Tom Clarke’s. Therefore he could not accept this 
Treaty. I also wish to say another reason why I could 
not accept is is the reason of fear. As I explained here 
at the private meeting, that from 1916 — I now wish to 
go over this again in public — from 1916 until we had 
the visits from the Black and Tans, I had comfortable, 
nice, happy nights and happy days because I knew my 
boys had done right, and I knew I had done right in 
giving them freely for their country; but when the 
Black and Tans came — then no nights, no days of rest 
had I. Always we had to be on the alert. But even the 
Black and Tans alone would not frighten me as much as 
if I accepted that Treaty: because I feel in my heart — 
and I would not say it only I feel it — that the ghosts of 
my sons would haunt me. Now another thing has been 
said about Padraic Pearse : that he would accept a Home 
Rule Bill such as this. Well, he would not. Now in my 
own simple way I will relate a thing that happened, I 
think it was in 1915 or in 1916. He sent me into Dublin 
on a very urgent message, and when I came to Westmore- 
land Street I saw on the placards, ‘ Home Rule Bill 
Passed.’ At that time I knew very little of politics, I 
was going on a very urgent message as I told you. I 
leaped out of my tram, got into another and went as fast 
1 ^% 



Rememhering Sion 

as I could up the roads of Rathfarnham, When I went 
in I found him as usual, writing, and he turned round 
and said; ‘Back so quickly?' ‘ Yes/ said I, ' the Home 
Rule Bill is passed.' He sat writing. The tears came 
into his eyes. He got up, and putting his arms around 
me said ; ‘ Little mother, this is not the Home Rule Bill 
we want, but perhaps in a short time you will see what 
we intend to do and what freedom we intend to fight for.' 
He then asked me about what he had sent me for, but I 
had come back without it. ‘ Never mind/ he said, ‘ I 
will do it myself to-morrow; go and get something to 
eat.’ I said to him then : ‘ What are you going to do ? ’ 

‘ Mother/ he said, ‘ don’t ask me, but you will know time 
enough-’ Now, in face of this, do you mean to tell me 
Padraic Pearse would have voted for this Treaty? I say 
no! I am sure here to-day the man to whom Padraic 
Pearse addressed these words — I am certain he is present — 
he said he could understand the case for compromise but 
personally rejected it. As an instance : when discussing 
the now much-mooted question of Colonial Home Rule 
he said that had he ever a voice in rejecting or accepting 
such proposals his vote would be cast among the ‘ noes.’ 
Well now my vote for accepting this is equal to his. I 
may say just a word on the oath. Our friend, Mr. MacCabe, 
read out die Ten Commandments- All I can say is what 
our catechism taught us in my days was: it is perjury 
to break your oath. I consider I’d be perjuring myself 
in breaking the oath I had taken to Dail Eireann. An 
oath to me is a most sacred vow made in the presence of 
Almighty God to witness the trutli and the truth alone. 
Therefore that is another reason of mine. Now men here 
may think little of an oath, and think little of a word of 
honour, but I repeat here a little incident that happened 
twenty minutes before Padi-aic Pearse was executed in 
Kilmainham, and it will let you know what he thought 

133 



Remembering Sion 

of a word of honour, much less an oath. He, poor fellow, 
had something written for you Irishmen, and to-day I 
am ashamed of some of you here. Had that note then 
come out from Kilmainham, I am sure we would have 
had many more on our side in rejecting this Treaty, but 
the priest whom he wished to take out that document 
had given his word of honour to the British Government 
that he would take out nothing. Padraic asked him to 
take out the document — at least, to take it to his mother, 
because he knew if his mother got it, it would be in the 
right quarters. The priest told him : ‘ Padraic,’ he said, 
‘ I have given my word of honour to take out nothing.’ 
‘ Well, Father,’ said he, ‘ if you have given your word 
of honour don’t break it, but ask those in charge to give 
Motlier this because she is bound to hear it sometime 
and I want to get it out now.’ If that document had been 
got out — it may be got yet, but, alas ! I am afraid it is 
too late — the people here would not have made up their 
minds so willingly to go the wrong path and not the right 
path. People will say to me : ‘ The people of Ireland 
want this Treaty.’ I have been through Ireland for the 
past few years and I know the hearts and sorrows of the 
wives of Ireland. I have studied them ; no one studied 
them more, and let no one here say that these women 
from their hearts could say they accept that Treaty. 
They say it through fear ; they say it through fear of the 
aeroplanes and all that has been said to them. Now I 
will ask you again : there are some members here who 
may remember what Padraic Pearse said in the early 
autumn of 1915. He said it when he was inspecting the 
Volunteers at Vinegar Hill. He told them there on that 
day; ‘ we, the Volunteers, are formed here not for half 
of Ireland, not to give the British Garrison control of 
part of Ireland. No! We are here for the whole of 
Ireland.’ Therefore Padraic Pearse would not have 


134 



Rememhering Sion 

accepted a Treaty like this with only two-thirds of his 
country in it. In the name of God I will ask the men 
that have used Padraic Pearse’s name here again to use 
it in honour; to use it in truthfulness. One deputy 
mentioned here about rattling the bones of the dead. I 
only wish we could recall them. Remember the day will 
come — soon I hope. Free State or otherwise — when those 
bones shall be lifted as if they were the bones of saints. 
We won’t let them rattle. No! but we will hold what 
they upheld, and no matter what any one says I feel that 
I and others have a right to speak in the name of their 
dead.” 

The character of Margaret Pearse is well depicted by 
herself in this speech, and that she firmly believed every 
word of it there can be no question. Her innocence of 
politics is also equally well revealed, while her arguments 
about Pearse and the Treaty are the feeblest part of it. 
Obviously what Pearse thought in 19x6 had no relation 
to what he thought in 1907 or what he might have thought 
in 1922. Her conversation with him about the Home Rule 
Bill might well have brought tears to his eyes when he 
had settled all his worldly affairs fully determined that he 
would head an insurrection before the war ended, and 
haunted by the possible fate of liis mother after his death 
had already in a statement left with his solicitor in October 
1914, recommended her to the care of the Clan na Gael 
of America; this document was only to be opened in the 
event of his death or early arrest.” As the Home Rule 
Bill was passed into law about September 1914 it is 
evident that Mrs. Pearse’s memory had failed her slightly 
and Pearse’s emotion easily understandable. He would 
certainly have been emphatic in repudiating Home Rule 
in September 19145 for when Connolly proposed an 
agitation about that time in favour of Colonial Home Rule, 
or rather the repeal of all clauses of the existing Act which 



Remembering Sion 

denied Ireland the powers enjoyed by Australia, Canada 
and South Africa, mainly as a means of embarrassing the 
Redmondites, Pearsc merely shrugged his shoulders and 
implied that Connolly could amuse himself so if he wished. 
In the war Pearse saw the moment for which the 
generations have been waiting/' although he sighed that 
the moment had come a year too soon. He would say 
in private that God alone had saved the Republicans 
and Separatists in 1914; had the British Government 
put the Home Rule Act in force the British Army would 
have had twice as many Irish recruits and Separatism 
would have been dead for a generation. All these things 
must have seethed in his mind as he looked on his simple- 
hearted mother, who had interrupted her shopping and 
taken a tram back five miles in haste to tell him about 
the poster. 

There is much unconscious pathos in the simple state- 
ment that Pearse was a follower of Tom Clarke, when 
Patrick Pearse never followed any one. The speech 
proceeds to refer vaguely to a conversation I once had 
with Pearse and mentioned in The Man Called Pearse \ 
Mrs. Pearse indeed uses several lines from the book, and 
in full they read: ‘‘ He could understand the case for 
compromise but personally rejected it. As an instance, 
when discussing the now much-mooted question of 
Colonial Home Rule, he averred that had he ever a voice 
in rejecting or accepting such proposals, he would cast 
his vote with the noes, not considering, however, the 
action of those who championed such a scheme as in any 
wise dishonourable." Even in this form it is evident that 
Pearse would have spoken to Dail Eireann in somewhat 
different accents than his mother, but she was quite 
honest and sincere in her use of it, and quoted the passage 
to me in amazement when I argued with her in 1922 in 
favour of the Treaty. Yet I had often told her the 
116 



Remembering Sion 

circumstances of the conversation which took place in 
the Hermitage in the early part of 1916. I had quoted 
to Pearse the opinion, then common enough in some 
Volunteer circles, that Republicans who rose in revolt 
and met with a fair measure of initial success would be 
mad to refuse a settlement on the basis of Colonial Home 
Rule from a British Government, The real start of the 
discussion arose from an attack on some members of ihe 
Hobson-MacNeill group. Their motives had been 
attacked and I had said I understood some of them 
held this view. This seemed to impress Pearse in their 
favour for his face cleared and he said after a minute of 
deliberation with the emphasis on the words I give in 
italics: '' Ah^ that is a question of peace terms. More 
slowly he went on: It is not a dishonourable proposal^ 
but personally, had I ever any voice in accepting or 
rejecting it, I would vote against it.""' Pearse was always 
ready to lead a forlorn hope, but he was open to per- 
suasion, and had any one convinced him that a course 
of action was morally wrong or opposed to the interests 
of Ireland he would always change his mind. He was 
ready to lead the Volunteers against the Redmondites 
before he did hut gave way to argument that such a course 
was not in the interests of the organisation. He voted 
against the admission of the Redmondite nominees to 
the Provisional Committee of the Volunteers, prepared 
to lead what seemed to him at the moment a hopeless 
stand against the great authority of Redmond, but rather 
relieved he had been spared the burden. It is true he 
afterwards changed his views on the matter and wished 
the split had come earlier, but his whole attitude was that 
of a man open to argument and swayed only by a desire 
to act according to the interests of Ireland. This was 
characteristic of him. He would listen to others and 
make quick and thorough decisions, regardless of popu- 

IS7 



Remembering Sion 

larity or the desire to save his face. In Easter weelcj 
although it would have been easier for him to go down^ 
fighting, he thought of the citizens of Dublin and the 
possibility of saving the lives of his men and hoisted his 
White Flag. He was open to the criticism that he had 
not fought as long as he might have, or that to be con- 
sistent with the more fiery passages in his speeches he 
should have perished in the flames with his men or 
waited to hoist his flag over a few more coipses and 
ruins and to vaiious other metaphysical criticisms sub- 
sequently minutely debated by the doctrinaires then 
shivering under the Dublin roofs. Then as ever, Pearse 
acted, With aching heart and erect head, but he acted. 

On the question of the oath, loo, Peaise had very clear 
views. His word was his bond, and that he should tell 
a priest, weighed down under so tragic duty to keep his 
word of honour could surprise no one who knew him. 
In Mrs. Pearse’s hearing, I enjoyed the very different 
judgment of a jolly monk; “ If I had been there, Pearse 
would never have heard about the authorities asldng me 
for that insulting undertaking. I should have slipped 
Pearse’s letter into my pocket and let Friend and Maxwell 
go to hell ! Mrs, Pearse was not shocked at this moral 
laxity although her admiration for Pat and the noble 
priest remained undimmed. 

In all great moral issues, however, Pearse was no 
scruple-monger. For instance, although a strong tem- 
perance advocate, he laughed at the belief that the 
temperance pledge in itself was a very binding promise. 
“ Nonsense ! he said with a shake of his head, '' it would 
be more honourable and better for a man to keep such a 
pledge, but the idea that any man can pledge himself for 
ever to any course of action is absurd. No man can bind 
himself like that,’’ Solateas the firstyears at the Hermitage, 
when Home Rule was in the air, Pearse discussed the oath 
138 



Remembering Sion 

of allegiance, and hardly regarded it as important. He 
was even in certain circumstances prepared to take such 
an oath at Westminster: At the most/^ he said, such 
an oath would only bind me while there.” This was 
characteristic of his independence of catch-cries. 

And not alone Margaret Pearse in that debate was 
haunted by Pearse. Another speaker arose and as he 
spoke it must have seemed to her that her son himself 
was speaking when Liam Mellows made his remarkable 
confession of faith, grave eyes burning under his bushy 
brows : To my mind the Republic does exist. It is a 
living tangible thing, something for which men gave their 
lives, . . . I hold the honour of Ireland too sacred a thing 
to make a bargain over ... it is not the will of the 
people, it is the fear of the people. . . , You may talk 
about your constitution in Canada, your united South 
Africa or Commonwealth of Australia, but the British 
Empire to me does not mean that. It means to me that 
terrible thing that has spread its tentacles all over the 
earth, that has crushed the lives out of people and exploited 
its own when it could not exploit anybody else. . . . We 
would rather have diis country poor and indigent, eking 
out a poor existence on the soil; as long as they possessed 
their souls, their minds and their honour.” And un- 
doubtedly Liam Mellows thought he was speaking as 
Pearse would speak, for he had said to me in the lobbies 
of the Dail wistfully : '' Ah, if Pearse were alive to speak 
to-day.” And as Margaret Pearse listened to him, she 
remembered Mellows hiding in St, Enda’s College in 
disguise on Easter eve and her long talks with him and 
his dash on Holy Thursday to Galway to lead an in- 
surrection with few arms. . . . 

Mellows had caught the accents of Pearse in his 
militant moods, that fundamental mood of Pearse, vivid 
and tenacious in the tradition of Ireland now, that call 

IS9 



Remembering Sion 

to one foredoomed to saciifice himself to rouse his 
country: One man may save a nation as one man 

redeemed the world/^ It often escaped Pearse in passion- 
ate phxascs and Margaret Pearse could remember its more 
subdued expressions as he sat sorrowful in the Hermitage 
and told her he and his brother would go soon^ have to 
go and leave all the beauty of the world, but stir Ireland 
as she had not been stirred for a hundred years. Here 
the Pearse who spoke is the Pearse who lives on for ever 
in his O'Donovan Rossa Oration, his Tone and Emmet 
panegyrics, one small book of twelve poems — and the 
Republican Proclamation of 1916. 

, Confronting Mellows in that debate, while Margaret 
Pearse sat in her sad, black robes beside the Easter week 
widows, deep in that argument she continued to the end 
of her clays, for it was always her son and Nineteen 
Sixteen with her, sat another man with the profile of a 
Caesar and the eyes of some vision-wrapped saint of 
old, Richard Mulcahy, Years after he said an eloquent 
word in this argument too over the grave of Collins, 
then so vital and so silent on the Dail benches. In the 
shade of the great Celtic cross which marks the scene of 
Collins's last hour, Richard Mulcahy spoke these words 
in August 1932: 

‘‘ When Pearse sat in his cell in Arbour Hill it was my 
privilege, four days before his execution, to stand in his 
cell with him to ask him was it true that surrender had 
been ordered, and whether the men of Fingal, who had 
given an excellent account of themselves during the week, 
could do any more good by holding out longer; and 
there was a look on Pearse's face of the most sublime 
peace and the most sublime hope. Was it his confidence 
in the force of arms that four days before his death, a few 
days before the bravest of our Irish soldiers were to fall 
before the blasting of guns — was it confidence in arms that 
140 



Remembering Sion 

spread peace over Pearse’s face that day? It was the 
knowledge that no arms in this country could cow the 
people^s spirit here or prevent them achieving any work 
they sought to do. It was knowing that^ knowing the 
capacity for work, for facing facts, for going ahead with 
the most dangerous and difficult work, that lay in our 
Irishmen and women, that put Pearse’s face in a most 
supreme calm that day. How could he have faith in arms 
in front of the firing-party that he knew his own spirit 
and the spirit of Iris people were going to beat down and 
beat down for ever from this country ? Fulfilling Pearse's 
hope, you set up a Parliament here in 1919, and that 
Parliament was suppressed by arms, and it was only then 
that the Irish Volunteers had to resort to arms to protect 
that Parliament and to keep here the institution that the 
Irish people had set up, and to keep it from interference 
and suppression by an outside body.'^ 

Pearse's political development can best be summarised 
in the paradox I used in Man Called Pearse : he was always 
a moderate and always a revolutionary. It is not surprising 
that many independent judges take it for granted that 
Pearse to-day at the very least would be under the de 
Valera banner or that many resent, though any student 
of his writings or the historians of die future will not be 
so sure or so resentful, the argument that Pearse would 
have accepted the machinery and opportunities of the 
Irish Free State in 1922. Margaret Pearse, as is well 
known, eventually saw in Mr. de Valera the successor 
of Patrick Pearse. She would defend him from all criti- 
cisms and hand you his latest pamphlet and speak of him 
with affection and a deep look of distress would come 
into her eyes at any sharp examination of de Valera or 
his policy. On her death-bed, his was the last name she 
uttered. To the end she went her way even when she 
knew her stand endangered the one thing she still wanted 

141 



Remembering Sion 

to endure : the school which she continued to her death 
in April 1932. Her last years were serene enough. The 
Civil War left a deep mark on her. Although she could 
never descend to personal bitterness, she could be unjust 
to her political opponents, for she misjudged Michael 
Collins in 1922, and never forgave the executions of the 
Free State regime. She was even capable of wishing the 
return of the British Occupation as an alternative to the 
Irish Free State. 

It was pathetic to see this noble woman after her sons 
had died and good to think she died at the moment of 
the triumph of de Valera. After 1916 some of us had 
expected to meet a broken woman, but a miracle had 
happened and the storm had passed in one short week 
balanced on the brink of madness. We thought our 
presence would remind her of the happy times with her 
sons, and this was true, for there is no doubt that the 
continuance of St. Enda’s helped to soften her loss. When 
she saw the St. Enda boys marching down the road she 
saw again Pat and Willie at their head and thought of 
the school festivals and all the gay chronicle of St. Enda’s 
before the Easter fires. She felt that some of the happiest 
world she had known still survived until beyond she would 
again be united to her sons. But there were festivals she 
could never attend, the great St. Enda’s gathering on All 
Hallow’s Eve where, in the old days, Pat and Willie had 
distributed gifts out of big white bags and recited Shamus 
O'Brien and Napoleon's Farewell in three short words 
after great preparation. Whenever she went abroad, and 
a pilgrimage to some Belgian shrine or a journey across 
the Atlantic were all one to her until the last, she visited 
all the St. Enda boys she could find and asked after them 
and their families and talked and listened to all the talk 
she could hear about the days before 1916. She was a 
born story-teller and a mimic. She would take off with 
142 



Rememhering Sion 

perfect good-nature all the idiosyncrasies of her friends 
and loved all the humours of Dublin, and she was hard 
to shock even when the vivid unexpurgated speech of 
Dublin fell on her ears. 

“ Children, said Margaret Pearse when she had had 
the worst of the argument with her own, ‘‘ should obey 
their parents in everything — except in the matter of 
marriage.’^ What memories she had about her own 
children ! She shared in all their hopes and sorrows and 
went with them everywhere. She accompanied her 
daughter, Mary Bridget Pearse and Willie to Cork in 
1911, with the Leinster Stage Society, a small amateur 
company of players which included Crawford Neil the 
poet, whose fine head I saw so often poised over the 
National Library counter and some very well-known 
Dublin players. The society had to its mind, though, 
alas ! not to the minds of the good citizens of Cork, a 
generous and varied programme : dramatic versions from 
Dickens, Gaelic plays, heroic plays, peasant plays and a 
farce or two. It had taken the Opera House, and every 
day the Opera House door-keeper cheered the company 
for the small audiences thus : It’s all over the town that 
your show is a rotten show. The whole town knows 
it’s a rotten show, man. You have to be very careful 
what you bring down here from Dublin or anywhere 
else. Why we can criticise the very choruses of operas, 
man.” One paper said that the prompter’s voice was 
more audible than the players and was not impressed. 
Mr. Fred Loco, the auburn and bustling stage-manager, 
used to look at the auditorium, and return to announce 
with gloom ever deeper and deeper: “ There are five, 
six, seven, twenty people, apart from the journalists who 
are thirsty and angry.” This was a pessimistic exaggera- 
tion, even if the Leinster Stage Society never set the Lee 
alight, a newspaper boy, a vendor of the evening Echo 



Retnem.heTing Sion 

of Cork itselfj refused a free pass in farmyard language 
and Fred Loco’s suggestion to drown all the critics in 
porter was firmly rejected^ and one player was dressed 
and hurried on to the stage by the frenzied efforts of the 
whole company one night after the curtain had gone up 
and full arrangements had been made to bluff through 
without him, leading figure in the piece and all as he 
was* Mrs. Pearse enjoyed all the ups and downs and a 
more kindly Cork as the company wandered off the 
boards and met the patriots and literati of Cork, who 
turned up evety night, and said all the good they could 
to tlie citizens in the daytime. Among these friends of 
the company were Daniel Corkery, Con O’Leary and 
Terence MaeSwiney, who showed the Leinster Stage 
Society Cork from the Shandon Bells to the mental 
ferment in its clubs and societies all the world was to 
know less than ten years later. And Daniel Corkery 
talks much of his friend Terence MaeSwiney, whose 
portrait is to hang on humble walls in India and Catalonia, 
whose death is to bring the Italian Chamber of Deputies 
to its feet in unanimous homage, Terence MaeSwiney, a 
man tall, slight, pallid, with eyes of benign and smiling 
strength, ‘‘ a white flame ” Corkery calls him wise before 
the event, though he also chaffs Terry and all his band of 
poets for knowing Shelley better than the use of a spade 
or a saw and offers to teach them. And ten years later, 
Margaret Pearse again comes to Cork, with her two sons 
in the grave, and walked behind Bishops with their 
croziers through streets flowing with flowers, to lay the 
Lord Mayor of Cork in his resting place and listen to the 
final volley over his grave under the tall trees. 

All her days she kept a great vigil. So serene and 
kindly was the face she turned to the world that people 
thought that she had been stunned or numbed or dis- 
tracted. This was not so. The wound remained, and 
144 



Rememhering Sion 

sometimes it opened with sharp pangs of loss. Once 
after 19165 she asked me to read to her Pearse^s poem 
The Mother. She nodded her head and urged me on to 
read — smiling sadly: 

I do not grudge them: Lordy I do not grudge 
My two strong sons that 1 have seen go out 
To break their strength and they and a few y 

In bloody protest for a glorious thing. 

They shall be spoken of among their peopky 
The generations shall remember themy 
And call them blessed/ 

Margaret Pearse still nodded her head, hut she sobbed 
and insisted on hearing the closing words, murmuring 
with unforgettable feeling: Go on ! Go on ! How he 
knew, my God, how he knew!’’ And she was right, 
for the poem proceeds: 

But I will speak their names to my own heart 
In the long nights; 

The little names that were familiar once 
Round my dead hearth, 

Lordy thou art hard on mothers: 

We sujfer in their coming and their going; 

And tko* I do not grudge themy I weary y weary 
Of the long sorrow — and yet I have my joy: 

My sons were faithful and they fought. 

Sometimes, Margaret Pearse told me then, the long 
sorrow came upon her with a terrible intensity as she 
walked the Dublin streets by herself. She would look 
round and see people looking at her for she had called 
out: '^^Pat and Willie! Pat and Willie! ” And it was 
well for her peace of mind that she could rest sometimes 
in Cullenswood and the Hermitage and tell the tale of 
her sons. But even here she could be merry and laugh at 
herself, and say: ‘‘ I went to the meeting and made a Pat 
and Willie speech. It’s all Fm good for at such affairs.'’^ 

Such was Margaret Pearse. 

- I4f 



NINE 


A nd then shadows of doom and disaster always 
darkened the St, Enda’s and the Dublin of those 
days, and we spent our hours in gloom taking down the 
fiery speeches of a ghoulish monomaniac who counted 
the minutes until he could offer up his fifty pupils on an 
altar to fierce old Gaelic gods and none other life or 
interest was there save that? A thunder of laughter 
comes rolling down the years and sunlight glitters on 
all the roofs of El Dorado and all the elms and beeches 
of the Hermitage nod in peace around the old grey house, 
but within there is life and mirth, and a red squirrel bounds 
across a woodland path and climbs a tree as a bell wakes 
fifty boys in the sunny dormitories and Pearse rapidly 
descends the three floors rousing laggards. On the 
rostrum he waits as the Study Hall fills and he recites the 
Rosary and an Irish Litany known to his saints centuries 
ago on lonely wave-lashed islets amid grey stone, and 
with a quick word has emptied the hall and seated liis 
boys around the long tables of the wood and iron-roofed 
refectory and watched them amidst a terrific din of cups, 
plates and voices and marched them with another word 
into the classrooms beyond the glass-roofed quadrangle, 
where some fall out for the Science Hall and others into 
the spacious rooms whence soon comes a hum of study, 
with intervals, until another bell ends the school-day. 
There is a clash of hurleys and parties ramble through 
the woods even as far as the lake, where otters and rats 
creep and fight and many-coloured birds flit through the 
trees sloping over the winding walks. Sometimes in the 
146 



Rememhering Sion 

summer there are open-air classes and Pearse holds a 
group of hoys under his spell until a magic and angry 
bird more mighty than any headmaster arrives and 
swoops down to put to ignominious flight witli strange 
cries from its scarlet and wrath-swollen gizzard all in- 
vaders of the small hilly green it regards as its own. 
Once Pearse held a raffle to raise funds for the school 
and saw an opportunity of ridding himself of this beloved 
but too militant turkey. He offered it as one of the prizes 
and it was duly won by a very learned man who waited 
in vain for the prize. When he complained, Pearse wrote 
to tell him that if he wanted his bird he would have to 
come out to Rathfarnham and capture it himself. Some 
sixth sense had told it that it was under banishment and 
its temper and speed increased amazingly. So the turkey 
lived with Pearse till it died, a despot to the end on its own 
hard -won green hillock. Birds and animals were favourites 
with Pearse. The cruelty and neglect of animals he some- 
times met in his wanderings through the country and 
especially in the Gaelthacht distressed and puzzled him. 
Pie used to speak bitterly about this and say it was a stain 
on any Christian country and that the English practice 
in these matters was an example to Ireland. Once a 
favourite horse had to be done away with. His mother 
and sister came to the scene weeping bitterly, while Pearse 
went quickly away. Inside the Study Hall Willie waited, 
and quite ignorant of what was afoot behind the quad- 
rangle sternly reproached some late-comers. “ We were 
watching the horse being knackered, sir,” they explained. 
Quite unmoved, Willie retorted : “ Well, in future, boys, 
please remember that even if your own grandmother is 
being knackered, you have no right to ignore the bell ! ” 
And then with his soft laugh Willie realised what he 
had said and was only too glad to hand over the Study 
to the grave Dr. Doody and go below to his brother in 

147 



Rememhering Sion 

the little room down off the huge flagged kitchen. There 
Pcarsc often sat at a round oak table writing or drinking 
tea out of his big willow-pattern cup, for he had taken 
a vow only to drink one cup of tea and the vow had 
irked him until this great vessel slaked his thirst and 
soothed his conscience. Late at night he sometimes left 
his study and brooded by himself in this lower room over 
his Irish New Testament, his black gown wrapped round 
him. In these moods he was like some monk in his cell. 
He would remain silent for hours, lost in his thoughts 
and unconscious of all around him and all questions 
addressed to him. “ Yes . . . yes,” he would answer, 
“No . . . no,” still dream- wrapped and devoid of any 
affectation or irritability. Two things always brought 
him out of his dreams with a smile : his brother crowing 
at him in their baby dialect or the entrance of those half- 
dozen senior students who also used this room, known 
to him as “ The Dogs.” With the Dogs he would enter 
into arguments and wax very positive, but endure con- 
tradiction very affably. All the Dogs were pupils of his 
from the first day and he enjoyed their gambols and pranks. 
With a grave expression he would listen to their often 
very personal discussions and frank criticisms of one 
another, always accompanied by the St. Enda nicknames : 
Spud and Yam and the Dog Himself and Hurricane Hal 
and Dinniper and the Bloody Man and the Beautiful and 
the Fat Rat and Napper Tandy. Willie told his brother 
on the quiet the scandalous chronicle of the last when he 
left St. Enda’s and eventually became a most staid and 
respectable doctor ; it could not be told to Pearse directly 
by the Dogs, for there were certain moral questions in- 
volved which would have embarrassed Pearse to hear 
direct, but when the merry tale was conveyed to him via 
WilHe by the Dogs, he could laugh without mounting 
his rostrum. Napper Tandy himself excused his grim 
148 



Retnemhering Sion 

humour and erratic temperament by a French drop in 
his blood and his upbringing by a cruel uncle who had 
hit him from time to time with an iron bar, growling the 
only words Napper Tandy had ever heard from him: 
“Blast you, be easy!” When he became a medical, 
Napper Tandy was generally hard up and once came out 
to the Dogs aslung diem for some books which he could 
sell to George Webb on the quays. They gave him some 
Latin grammars and dog-eared histories and a Euclid 
without much hope that this would relieve him. They 
anticipated George would say the same words as he had 
said when these books had once before been offered to 
him by themselves : “No use. No demand for them 
books. Piles of them inside.” And hang-dog, ruffianly 
assistants had agreed with George. There was no place 
for such wares in that disordered shop with groaning 
shelves and piles of books all over the floor and no 
system or catalogue but the memories of George and his 
gruff hirelings. But Napper Tandy asked for a large bag 
to carry the books and said : “ Never venture, never win, 
by Jasus 1 ” Saddened by his empty pockets the Dogs 
accompanied him to the quays and waited outside. 
Fifteen minutes passed and Napper Tandy came out, 
swinging an empty bag and tossing half-crowns in the 
air. He asked the Dogs to come to dinner that very 
evening in the Red Bank Restaurant and have what they 
pleased at his expense. It appears that George was very 
busy when Napper Tandy arrived. Leaving him to 
haggle with the sellers of books worse than his own, 
Napper Tandy carefully left the books he had brought 
in a dark corner and filled the bag with the pick of the 
shelves which he sold to George at a handsome price. 
Napper Tandy also hated landladies, for he was fastidious 
about dust and diet: in his first year as a medical he 
had twenty-six landladies, and so violent were his leave- 

149 



Rememb&ring Sion 

takings that his belongings were generally lowered out 
the windows to him in the dead of night. Once he was 
invited to spend a night in a friend’s digs and given the 
key and told to make himself at home any hour after 
midnight, but not to disturb poor So-and-so in the first 
room on the left third landing. Naturally after midnight 
Napper Tandy hurled open the door of the first room on 
the third landing, for he and poor So-and-so never hit it 
off, and with a wild : “ Blast you, how are you ! ” dived 
boots and all into bed on top of poor So-and-so. There 
was a wild female shriek and Napper Tandy flew, for he 
knew the voice too well : that of his nineteenth landlady, 
an ancient dame of blistering tongue and hefty arm, and 
lo ! even as he went tliere was a volley of language and 
a crash of crockery behind him. Napper Tandy hated 
women and policemen and drank many toasts at St. Enda 
merry-makings to the confusion of both, tie used to 
scorch past a prowling policeman at Terenure without 
a light, sending blood-curdling whoops of defiance at 
this policeman who was notorious for capturing cyclists. 
Once Napper Tandy left a bit of his coat with the constable 
and told him vigorously that in birth and speech he 
wasn’t far from the bog. “ So you are from the West, 
yourself.^ ” said the policeman, recognising the accent of 
})is home town. From that out there was peace between 
them. 

If Napper Tandy was a determined misogynist, not so 
with the Beautiful, who shared a small room with Dinniper 
at the top of the house. The Beautiful deserved his name, 
and his heart was pierced by an arrow from the eyes of 
some wonderful girl once every month, and at the end 
of the month all was over and his life was blasted j and 
Dinniper, a wild-haired youth of impetuous temper and 
lurid language, had to console the Beautiful, and did so 
witli resignation, for he knew by experience that on the 
150 



Rememhering Sion 

first of the month the Beautiful’s heart would he pierced 
again and that at the end of the month again the Beautiful 
would lie back on his bed with mournful eyes and sing 
dolefully “ O Jerusalem,” and this was the end of the 
reigning, heartless, false one. Other eyes were raised in 
homage to the Beautiful through all these reigns, and the 
Beautiful’s nerves were so much affected at all the hearts 
he was breaking that he took poor Dinniper out under 
a bush and brooded in silence, and then said sadly: “ It’s 
a curse to be good-looking ! ” Dinniper annoyed him 
much by arguing with him furiously on the question of 
the eternity of hell and hurling heresies at him nightly 
and reading all sorts of books at him until the Beautiful 
told him be was one of those persons his Big Brother 
talked about: intellectual snobs who would find their 
mistakes one day when demons poked their backsides 
with red-hot forks through flaming walls twelve feet 
thick, whereupon Dinniper forsook argument and de- 
scended to personal abuse and reached for a blackthorn 
and made a swipe at the wall and just missed the Beautiful, 
but left a mark on that wall to be seen in St. Enda’s to 
this day in spite of all painters and others who have since 
laboured to remove it. Next morning the Beautiful and 
Dinniper were horrified when a red-haired youth, who 
slept the other side of the wall, approached them and told 
them that he had listened to their arguments about hell 
for a month and he sided with Dinniper. The Beautiful 
appealed to Dinniper whether there was or was not a 
hell, and whether or not their nightly arguments were 
only intended to clarify their minds like the custom at 
Maynooth of holding debates presided over by Bishops 
and Cardinals and defying all the world to come and 
reason out the case. Dinniper rose to the occasion and 
said of course there was a hell, but the red-haired youth 
looked very sad to hear that. 

15T 



Rememhering Sion 

Dinniper and the Beautiful had at that time a feud with 
Napper Tandy and the Bloody Man. They were so 
foolish as to let Napper Tandy know that they were 
shocked to hear Elizabethan language, and Napper Tandy 
gave them their fill thereof and character sketches of 
themselves for a pair of Holy Willies, and quoted the 
Bible and Shakespeare and the classics and his uncle, 
who walloped him with the iron bar until they groaned 
and salted his tea when he wasn't looking, but Napper 
Tandy made such realistic remarks about the meals for 
a month afterwards that their appetites left them even as 
Napper Tandy wolfed down all placed before him, a 
mighty trencherman, his long nose gleaming with joy 
and cheeks flaming as he barked hunger-dealing comments 
at them. 

The feud with the Bloody Man — for tltis was his 
adjective, and hence his name in the days before this 
word had lost its sting — arose out of his inordinate 
conceit over his knowledge of Greek and his contempt 
as an Irish speaker for all the Irish of Dinniper and the 
Beautiful and his very glum aspect and his sardonic 
remarks. Dinniper and the Beautiful stood this far 
longer than they should have. But when they had shut 
down their arguments on theology to preserve the red- 
haired youth from troubling himself with problems un- 
suited to his years, they became men of action and raided 
the hen-roosts of St. Enda's and procured a noble White 
Cock with a mighty crow and placed him in a box and 
arranged him neatly on the bed of the Bloody Man in 
the hope that the bird would escape and elude the Bloody 
Man and give him something more to think about than 
sleep, and leave him exposed to the gibes of Yam and 
Hurricane HaL But as they turned to steal away, the 
Bloody Man came through the door with the adjectives 
for which he was nicknamed and hurled the White Cock 
I$2 



Remembering Sion 

through the mndow and grappled with Dinniper, who 
was happily armed with his blackthorn* Dinniper bears 
the marks of that combat to this day, for the Bloody Man 
caught hold of the blackthorn and gave his hand a twist 
he remembered* Then Miss Margaret Pearse arrived and 
told them they weie a pack of children and not to be 
waking up the younger ones, and for a month afterwards 
disgusted Dinniper and the Beautiful by all the com- 
pliments she paid the Bloody Man for taking it all so 
nicely* The hypocrite had put on his best smile and 
shelved his adjectives and said not to mind, and never 
thought at all of the visit that Dinniper had to pay the 
doctor to get his hand put right, though he recalled the 
few cracks of the blackthorn and the boot the Beautiful 
gave him as battle ebbed and flowed and the White Cock 
crew dolefully outside in the garden. He mended his 
manners after that and settled down, and lives in a hand- 
some mansion outside Dublin, and is famous as one who 
cares for the ills and ailments of horses and dogs and 
cattle* Does the White Cock never haunt him? 

Sometimes the Fat Rat (who was a student of history 
and given to winning scholarships and medals, and 
became a lawyer in the end) took all the Dogs out to 
his family farm, and his brother, the Gulkin, drove the 
car at full speed, hooting loudly to drown the laughter 
of the Fat Rat and Yam and Hurricane Hal and Dinniper 
and the Bloody Man and Napper Tandy, who by the way 
was responsible for calling the Fat Rat the Fat Rat, since 
there was no rhyme nor reason in the noun, though there 
was a plausible excuse for the adjective. And out on the 
farm the Dogs and the Gulkin talked much of politics, 
and this topic too was much in the conversation when 
they went out to tea with Hurricane Hal on Sunday 
evenings, and Hurricane HaFs father, irreverently known 
to them as the Rajah, spoke to them wisely in Irish and 



Remembering Sion 

English and played chess with them, and the family 
gathered round and watched the tight battles of the Rajah 
and the Dogs; but try as they would they never check- 
mated him, and knew when they captured his Queen that 
he would have them tied up in two moves or so with a 
flap of his hand and a twinkle of his eye. Then there 
would be the music of harps and all the arguments that 
Ireland heard afterwards from the platforms and mani- 
festos of Sinn Fein, and many of those who made and 
drafted them sat under the Rajah’s roof and much past 
history the Dogs heard before they made a bolt for the 
Rathfarnham tram. 

It was Yam who was keenest on politics, and all for 
pikes and guns, as befitted one whose father had taken part 
in many revolutions in a far land. The Dogs read all 
the literature of Sinn Fein and held many arguments with 
the Dog Himself and Yam and Dinniper on the one side 
and the Fat Rat and the Bloody Man and Napper Tandy 
on the other. Nothing would do Dinniper but he must 
go Labour and Socialist, and though Yam had a farm, 
Dinniper nearly converted him, to the disgust of Napper 
Tandy, who said he wasn’t going to be said by a lot of 
bowsies and gang of old working-men led by a fire- 
brand the like of Jem Larkin, whose paper Dinniper 
read regularly. Then Napper Tandy read Larkin’s paper 
and somersaulted, for he liked the style, especially when 
he saw tlie look of horror on the Beautiful’s face. Nothing 
would do Dinniper but to start writing for Larldn himself 
and I tell you he got a flea in his ear when he sailed in 
first with an article to tell the world what patriotism was 
and why he was a patriot. This was the kind of stuff he 
reeled off, for I declare to God he took himself very 
seriously, asking the Fat Rat whether this word would 
do and what year did So-and-so say this and wasn’t tills 
a good point; and then the Fat Rat would talk the head 
154 



Rememhering Sion 

off Iiinij for the Fat Rat was studying political economy 
under Father Tom Finlay in the National just then, and 
he gave Dinniper a few nuts to crack with his wild talk 
about Socialism, and kept Yam on the straight path, for 
Dinniper had him loaded up with pamphlets and some- 
times Dinniper and Napper Tandy broke up all arguments 
by chasing the Fat Rat down the stairs and miles up the 
road, though to see them at meals in the refectory you'd 
think butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. Hammer 
and tongs Dinniper and a lad named O’F ” were at it 
in Larkin’s paper about Labour and Nationalism, and 
Dinniper was on his high horse, saying he wasn’t the son 
of a shopkeeper or a self-sufficient youth, and telling his 
opponent who’d told him to play marbles and learn the 
elements of the question in dispute before he’d cough 
up any more higli-falutin’ twaddle about the ethics of 
the Lord knows what, telling his opponent anyway to 
propagate no more backlane English and pigsty morality 
and learn what he was talking about before he started, and 
then Jem Larkin put the tin lid on the pair of them; but 
it was a gas turn while it lasted, and Pearse laughed at 
Dinniper and told him an odd thing or two when O’F 
winded him with anotlier hefty one on the button. . . . 
But when the Big Strike came Dinniper broke out again 
and wrote yards and yards and yards more under another 
of his fancy pen-names, sometimes quoting Swinburne, 
but sometimes using such violent language that Jem 
Larkin told him that he was descending into vulgarity 
and to stick to his books. Anyway, Yam and Dinniper 
couldn’t talk five minutes without bringing Dublin Castle 
in and vowing they'd hoist a green flag on top of it; and 
the Dog Himself was nearly as bad, and the three of them 
got vexed one night and, in spite of all the Fat Rat could 
say, nothing would suit them but march down town and 
raise blue murder in a picture-house near O^Connell 



Rememhering Sion 

Bridge because there was a film being shown to give a 
fillip to recruiting for the Army, and they booed and 
hissed and got into handgrips with the attendants with the 
aid of a lot of madcaps as bad as themselves, and before 
you could cry crack the audience was yelling: Take the 
bloody thing off! We don't want any so-and-so so-and- 
so in this so-and-so city! Give us back our money or 
let us enjoy ourselves 1 " And Hurricane Hal had a clasp- 
knife handy when a Tommy started to climb over the 
seats and threatened to knock the stuffing out of him, 
but the manager rushed in and managed to pacify the 
lot of them, and there was a question asked in the House 
of Commons by some Tory die-hard, and Mr. Birrell got 
up and said he understood that some irresponsible and 
unrepresentative elements had booed a picture, but there 
was nothing to it and every precaution had been taken 
to prevent the recurrence of similar demonstrations which 
he was satisfied did not reveal the real sentiments of the 
Irish people. He never said a truer word, for the Fat 
Rat read them all a lecture and Miss Pearse joined in and 
told them to stick to their studies and not make ejots of 
themselves. Gob, you'd think they were Wolfe Tones, 
the airs they gave themselves. But that didn't put an end 
to their foolishness, for the next thing Dinniper got hold 
of a miniature rifle and began to learn to shoot, and Yam 
ditto and the Dog and the Joyso Baby and his pal, 
Frank. And of course when Dinniper got hold of a gun 
he realised that Napper Tandy was a very fine moving 
target, so one fine afternoon when Napper Tandy made 
a rude remark to him as Napper Tandy and the Fat Rat 
were strolling up and down the walk just in front of the 
Hermitage, and Dinniper was cleaning his weapon in the 
top front room next door to Pearse's room, Dinniper 
let bang and bang and bang and bang and Napper Tandy 
couldn't be seen for dust, but as he had to pass the windows 
156 



Rernemhering Sion 

Dinniper refused to cease fire until he withdrew his 
remarks, Napper Tandy swore that the bullets whizzed 
round his head, but Dinniper was not quite so mad as 
all that, but had kept firing at a bush in front of him 
straight ahead while his target danced and shouted to his 
left and Dinniper watched the dust dancing up in front 
of the bush, Dinniper was not encouraged to seek mov- 
able targets after that; they took the gun off him, and only 
let him blaze away twice a week. They were mad enough, 
tlie whole crowd of tliem, until Sla arrived as Science 
master and the Yank joined them. Then they went to 
the devil altogether. All this time the Dogs were attend- 
ing the National and every morning they drove down 
with Peadar, Micheal’s brother, down to the tram start 
behind the brown horse. They all joined the Volunteers 
in due course and had the time of their lives between the 
lectures of the professors and tlieir nights in fields and 
mills, and sang a song that they would live before they 
died; but that’s enough about the Dogs for the present, 
except to say that they all grew up and became so re- 
spectable, except perhaps Dinniper, that nowadays you 
wouldn’t know them for the mad young fellows that 
once satisfied Mr, Birrell that they were unrepresentative 
of the real sentiments of the Irish people and who led 
Patrick Pearse astray witli their wild talk and carryings on. 

Always in St. Enda’s there had been a dramatic tradi- 
tion. In earlier pages here there has been little mention 
of this; it can be read in old copies of An Macaomh 
(The Youth) or in the portions of that which Pearse had 
reprinted in The Story of a Success, All Pearse’s per- 
sonality went into these plays and pageants, and he wrote 
his playlets, The King and losagan and The Master and 
his Cuchulainn Pageant and his Passion Play with an 
eye of the individual characters of his pupils. And some- 
times a word slipped from him as he watched the re- 

157 



Rememhertng Sion 

hearsals which showed an insight into all the weaknesses 
and strength of his pupils. In his beginnings at Cullens- 
wood House before his first dream faded and St. Enda’s 
was the one main interest of his life, these plays were a 
central item on the programme, and he had the help of 
Padraic Colum who wrote The Destruction of the Hostel^ 
ransacking old translations of Irish tales to find sea- 
raiders and sword-girt heroes, and Standish O'Grady 
who gave him his Coming of Fionn and superintended the 
rehearsals, and W. B. Yeats who produced a play of 
Tagore's at the Abbey along with one of Pearse's in aid 
of the school. Pearse took much pride in his players 
whether he saw them in their hero-garb in Cullenswood’s 
pleasant field or on the Abbey stage or in the small 
theatre he built on occasion in Cullenswood. Thomas 
MacDonagh was his stage-manager, the most exacting 
and competent Bully of a stage-manager imaginable, 
reducing stolid youth to the verge of tears and more 
excitable youths to rage, going his way genially insistent 
and implacable. The curtain rises and Thomas watches, 
unless he is acting himself. The curtain falls and Thomas 
leads or shares the applause and then wears sackcloth and 
ashes. He does a tremendous penance for his criticisms, 
apologising, eulogising and taldng it all back and calling 
himself all the names he can think of with a wave of his 
flowing tie and sweeping gestures. He has the air of some 
saint lamenting the sins of his youth, a twinkle in his eye 
and capable of a gentle leg-pull — assuming we all know 
that fancy must roam betimes. Off he goes in his kilt 
with green brath floating to see a friend home near mid- 
night, to his friend's door, back again with his friend to 
his own and back again, . . . When Thomas goes to 
lecture in the National University Willie Pearse takes his 
place as stage-manager and always runs the school con- 
certs with always a scene from Shakespeare, where Pearse 
158 



Rememhering Sion 

will recite Mark Antony’s oration with tremendous fire. 
Through a Wicklow glen the brothers lead their school 
excursions or to Howth with Thomas on that great day 
when we all had such splendid thirsts and hungers that 
milk and food gave out and a wild-eyed virago appeared 
at the door, shouting : If yiz want morCj tlien begod, 
yiz’ll have to pay for it/’ and Pearse said haughtily there 
was no question that she would and she retired amidst 
tremendous cheering and a bow from Thomas^ who 
insisted that every drop of milk should be drained from 
the jugs and every plate cleared as a reproof for this 
attempted browbeating and actual slander. Through 
Ireland went the hurling and football teams of St. Enda’s^ 
carrying all championships of Dublin and Leinster before 
them, and whenever the St. Enda team had a temporary 
reverse Pearse looked sad and shook Iiis head^ and the 
Lord help tlie next team St. Enda’s met. 

Sometimes I sat in his study, for I became his secretary 
in intervals of teachings until I began to attend the 
lectures at the National. There he would open his mind 
as he wrestled with the problems of his soul^ the debts 
and bills, an article for some country paper boosting the 
school. Sometimes I wrote these articles, but I enjoyed 
it more when Pearse wrote and paused with a smile and 
a blush after the compliments he had just paid himself. 

‘‘ The distinguished Headmaster of St. Enda’s/’ he would 
write and then shake with laughter, and gather a few 
more. The boys came to him with all their own troubles, 
and so deep was his hold over them that they always told 
him tlie truth, and he found by experience he could always 
trust them. The burden of the school irked him some- 
times, Wouldn’t it be a grand thing,” he said once with 
a sigh, to have no ambition whatsoever, and be a clerk 
with £2 a week? Yes, I should enjoy that, no worries, 
and ease among my books,” He loved his books : that 

159 



Rememhering Sion 

much-read edition of the Cattle Spoil of Cuailgne and his 
many editions of Shakespeare, all of which he had watched 
in the booksellers’ windows, nobly renounced, entered, 
fingered, steeled himself, fled whole streets away, lingered, 
wavered, turned back and purchased, radiant and ashamed 
until he saw the next. Sometimes his pride broke out in 
these words : If I don’t save the school, I won’t walk 
round Dublin to be pointed out as the man who founded 
it and failed : no, I shall go to America and work until 
I have paid oS the last penny of debt” Once he went 
so far as to say: I think I will be a Socialist, for the 
rich have failed me ! ” This, however, was a bitter jest, 
since he regarded Socialism with suspicion, although he 
said the usual attacks on it in Ireland on religious grounds 
were untenable. The scholar never obscured the talker : 
he had his ideas all clear and well arranged. He had a 
jesting, fantastic way of weaving all sorts of arguments, 
and these generally finished as a monologue. He would 
defy you to prove that fairies never danced round toad- 
stools in the moonlight or revel in slang, in reminiscences 
for hours. He would sketch a plan for a Gaelic Empire 
or consider fasting on the doorsteps of some wealthy 
Dubliner until the school was endowed or imagine him- 
self as the first Irish Minister of Education addressing 
the representatives of the teachers: “Now, gentlemen, 
the very first thing to be done before we discuss these 
other matters is to double, treble all your salaries 1 ” He 
played with the idea of collecting the most positive state- 
ments and prophecies of Arthur Grifiith, Hilaire Belloc 
and Bulmer Hobson, and disproving diem all beyond yea 
or nay. 

As 1912 went by Pearse’s thoughts took on a more 
militant tinge, although his greatest school crisis and tlie 
failure of An Barr Buadh had somewhat chastened him. 
His heart was always witli the rising militant national 



Remembering Sion 

movements ; even when he laughed at some of their 
manifestations or blamed them he respected the ideal 
behind them all- It may or may not be true to suggest, 
as Dennis Gwynn suggests, that without Pearse '"the 
miscellaneous collection of intellectuals turned largely 
under his inspiration into Irish Volunteers, of newspaper 
boys turned into boy scouts by Countess Marcievicz, and 
of dock labourers turned into a Citizen Army by James 
Connolly, who between them composed the small force 
necessary to carry out the coup (Tetatj would never have 
been got together or inspired with a single purpose/'^ 
It is certainly untrue to claim, as Gwynn proceeds to claim, 
that Pearse, who had founded an Irish-speaking second- 
ary school some eight years previously had developed it 
into a more or less precariously established institution, 
and deliberately used it as an instrument to provide him- 
self with the nucleus of a band of young politicians who 
would follow him to tlie scaffold as the political successor 
of Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet.” Dennis Gwynn’s 
total lack of humour, political prepossessions and post- 
war disillusion colour his otherwise living portrait of 
Pearse, whom he regarded more truly when he was in 
actual touch witli Pearse in Cullenswood House. He 
does in this very sketch bring to life Pearse suddenly 
lighted by a vision of the day he alone in Ireland foresaw : 
“ I remember how he used to become eloquent with the 
extraordinary eloquence he often developed in long con- 
versations about the necessity of rousing the country 
from lethargy. He used to recur constantly to the 
assertion that the people had lost their souls and were 
being vulgarised, commercialised, anxious only to imitate 
the material prosperity of England. . . - After a time 
these ideas of his took more definite shape and he used 
to tell every one he met that there could be no hope for 

^ Dublin Review^ January-February-March^ 19313* 


T. 



Rememhering Sion 

Ireland until there had been actual bloodshed. We were 
all accustomed to hearing this sort of talk from him, but 
I remember particularly one day at Rathfarnham when he 
first spoke to me about the necessity of an actual rebellion. 
I think I replied with some banal remark about one British 
battleship being able to blow the whole of Dublin to 
atoms. He was seldom violent in his gestures, but I can 
still see him bringing down his clenched fist heavily on 
the table where we were sitting and declaring : ‘ I would 
rather see all Dublin in ruins than that we should go on 
living as we are at present.’ I was startled by his vehem- 
ence and often remembered his words afterwards. I 
recalled them with amazement when, four years later in 
England, I read the first bewildering reports of the Dublin 
Rising and realised that his life’s ambition had been 
fulfilled.” 

It was indeed impossible to know Pearse and remain 
in ignorance of how vivid and ever-present was his dream 
and aim of revolution, especially as Dennis Gwynn notes 
in the Hermitage. He was a good listener, but when 
roused the conversation ended as a monologue which 
sounded very like one of speeches, although there was 
more humour. One such monologue, punctuated by 
questions from Dennis Gwynn and myself about the year 
1912, hums faintly in my ears, perhaps because it is 
characteristic, of two sides of Pearse, that fire beneath 
and that detachment above the fire. Pearse sits at the 
table and raps it from time to time to mark his points 
and again looks away towards the summer evening 
darkening the trees in the grounds beyond the great 
windows. King Charles’s head is duly flourished to 
the audience with resonant comment : “ Parliament is the 
brain of England, but behind the Parliament is the armed 
force which executes the will of that brain. Whenever 
England goes forward, Ireland falls back” and so on. 



Rememhering Sion 

For all I know Pearse might then have banged the table 
and with face alight predicted his insurrection. I forget, 
but other phrases rise from the memory and these phrases 
are characteristic of another Pearse, the Pearse who would 
tell you that an insurrection could only be undertaken in 
the case of a foreign war, and add with a dry smile: “ A 
poor prospect when you think of it, isn’t it.^ We could 
march on Dublin Castle, but in twelve hours the British 
Fleet would be shelling Dublin. Again think of those 
who might be drawn into such an enterprise: myself, 
Griffith and Larkin perhaps, this man and that man, all 
distrustful of one another.” And with his dry smile Pearse 
would fall silent. But these faint phrases show another 
Pearse in that summer of 191a, when Home Rule seemed 
still a live issue: “ Does Carson believe what he says.^ 
Hardly, he’s a clever ex-Dublin lawyer who must know 
he is talking nonsense. . . . After all, he has lived here ! 
Sinn Fein ? The Sinn Fein movement made a lot of noise 
some years ago, but is now on the wane, thanks to 
Griffith’s tactics. His lack of policy and carping com- 
ments have driven away the best elements of the Irish 
Party. But Griffith’s last pamphlet, The Home Rule Bill 
Examined, has somewhat redeemed him: it proves he 
has not lost altogether the capacity for constructive 
criticism. . . . His arch-critic is Sheehy-Skeffington, a 
man of a type common in England but rare in Ireland. 
He has a thousand principles, from pacifism and woman’s 
suffrage to wearing knickerbockers, and would die at the 
stake for the least of them, even his right to wear knicker- 
bockers. He is a most lovable man and always very 
courteous, never more so than when he meets me and 
explains that the Gaelic League and the Irish language 
are quite dead, or, at any rate, all humbug.” Pearse would 
dash off a judgment like that for the asking. He had no 
malice even towards those who made bitter personal 



Remembering Sion 

attacks on himselfo When he founded the Barr Bitadh 
in a mad and inspired mood some gutter journalist in 
the Larkinite camp wrote a note insinuating that Pearse 
was really wirepulling for the job of Minister of Education 
under a Home Rule Parliament. Pearse gasped, and said 
to me and Willie: Did you ever hear such a thing 
Willie said that after all there were people capable of such 
wiles but Pearse remained sad at the suggestion that there 
should be villany like that in the world. Finally, both 
Willie and I persuaded him that such villany was possible, 
and he burst out laughing, for he remembered that he was 
fighting for the life of his school and that it was putting 
him to sore straits to pay the printer's bill. Dennis 
Gwynn, although he told Pearse to his face in public that 
his one ambition was to end in the dock and on the 
scaffold, was devoted to Pearse. Once Dr. Mahaffy 
wrote a famous letter banning the celebration of the 
Thomas Davis centenary by Trinity College Gaelic 
Society on the grounds that ” a man called Pearse had 
been invited to speak. This was during the war before 
Gwynn himself had joined the army. He organised a 
meeting of National University students to be addressed 
by Pearse and W. B. Yeats and Professor T. M. Kettle, 
at that time a very prominent recruiting agent on plat- 
forms in his khaki uniform. The meeting was very 
lively. A working man cursed the opening speakers 
for their moderation: The shade of Mahaffy is over 
ye all. Put more life into it! " The door was thrown 
open and Professor Kettle arrived gloriously drunk. He 
opened his speech with a glare at Pearse and hammered 
the table and said he would uphold free speech even for 
his personal enemies, and this with another blow on the 
table and another glare at Pearse. Yeats rose and read 
Thomas Davis's Lament for Owen Roe^ his wonderful 
voice filling the room like a magic tempest: 

164 



Remembering Sion 

Wally wail him through the island! Weep, "weep for our pride ! 

Would that on the battle-field our gallant chief had died! 

Weep the victor of Beinn Burb — weep him, young men and old! 

Weep for him, ye women — -your Beautiful lies cold! 

We thought you would not die — we were sure you would not go. 

And leave us in our utmost need to CromwelV s cruel blow — ■ 

Sheep without a shepherd, when the snow shuts out the sky — 

Oh, why did you leave us, Owen! Why did you die! 

Then Yeats made a short speech saying he knew 
nothing about politics or was not much interested in 
them just then^, and wrapped a delicate reproof to Dr. 
Mahaffy in some phrase from a Greek tale about some 
sage who would not have alluded to some poet by pro- 
fessing a dislike to hear a poet termed a man called so- 
and-so. But he would like to hear Mr. Pearse on Davis, 
and with a phrase or two more about Davis Iiimself, 
Yeats sat down gracefully. Pearse made a long com- 
parison between those who prefer the fiery Mitchel to 
the mild Davis, or those who preferred the Gospel of St. 
John to the Gospel of St. Luke. At this point die 
working man rose once more, having recovered his 
good humour and pointed at Kettle with the question: 

Eh, Mr. Pearse, and what about the Gospel according 
to St. Thomas ? ’’ Afterwards Kettle and the crowd had 
some sharp exchanges. Tliis distressed Pearse, who 
shook his head afterwards and said Kettle had made a 
had job of it with the crowd. The attack on himself 
passed him by. He said : “ If Stephen Gwynn had been 
there instead of Kettle he would have put up a case for 
himself! 

All roads led to the attack on Dublin Castle with 
Pearse. Especially in the war years. “We must strike,” 
he would say. “ After all our marchings and speeches 
what else can we do? Would any one ever listen to our 
oratory again if we let this chance pass ? ” But there 

165 



Rememhering Sion 

was in this very open profession of his aims — too open 
some thought — nothing of the bloodthirsty fanatic. 
There was a sadness about him, and he never quite faced 
the horrors of warfare with an easy mind. The sinking 
of the Lusitania saddened him, while at first he refused 
to believe the Germans were using poison-gas. When 
pupils of his joined the British Army he shook his head 
even more sadly and agreed with MacDonagh’s breezy: 
“ Now begad, that’s consistent ! ” But has Pearse not 
written : “ One does not want to make each of one’s 
pupils a replica of one’s self (God forbid !), holding the 
self-same opinions, prejudices, likes, illusions . . . because 
for every soul there is a perfection meant for it alone, and 
which it alone is capable of attaining.” 

Through the St. Enda’s of those years passed many 
famous Irishmen who addressed the boys in the evenings 
when Pearse presided at a lecmre or a debate, Padraic 
Colum, Bulmer Hobson and Dr. Douglas Hyde and 
Major MacBride. Sometimes the Dogs themselves 
mounted the platform and sometimes there was a school 
vote on some burning internal question as games. Some- 
times there was drill in the evenings and one drill in- 
structor may end this section for as Con Colbert came 
to the Hermitage Pearse had entered on his last phase. 
Excited in the Study Hall Colbert stands, eyes smoulder- 
ing, taut in his green jersey as he drills the boys. Lithe 
and smiling he puts them through drills and exercise with 
sword-sticks and teaches them the semaphore alphabet 
and tells them he knows every part of all makes of guns. 
They like him, but his enthusiasm puzzles them and they 
hardly understand one night his outburst that any one 
who doesn’t want these drills and fencings and marchings 
needn’t bother about them, but when they think a bit and 
are older they’ll find these bits of knowledge very handy 
if they want to live in Ireland at all. This awakes the 



Rememlering Sion 

pride of the wits of St. Enda's who say that it’s all very 
well for Pete (Pearse) to do the Robert Emmet act, but 
they won’t have outsiders telling them what’s what. And 
Colbert laughs at them and goes out to his little tent in 
the long field, and sometimes Liam Mellows comes to 
join him in his small tent wida greenery for a bed and 
others of the Fianna come and they sing songs around 
the small fire. 

And then Dinniper and the Yam and the Dog Himself 
got very thick with Colbert and Liam, although the Fat 
Rat and Napper Tandy and the Bloody Man would not 
have anything to do with their carryings on, but Hurricane 
Hal was as bad as the rest. Nothing would do them but 
behind Pete’s back and all when he thought they were 
studying, but they went the whole hog and came in touch 
with the reorganised Irish Republican Brotherhood and 
joined it and drilled in a city hall and scraped all the 
money they could together to buy guns. But just as that 
happened ihe Big Strike loomed ahead, yet not before the 
Pearse brotliers thought Colbert was the reincarnation 
of Napoleon. At the Saint Enda’s Fete in Jones’ Road 
the bold Colbert had a whole army ready to march and 
countermarch, of heroes he had picked up in Dublin, 
for Pearse’s pageants. ** They were like a pair of 
children,” said Colbert to Dinniper. Why don’t they 
smell a rat ? ” And Hurricane Hal and the Dog Himself 
and Yam laughed, for Colbert had drilled them all for 
months, down in the city hall, and the Bloody Man was 
the only one who hit the nail square on the head when 
he said : Hum, there are some Fenians in this house 
all right, but if you and Willie and Pete are going to start 
a revolution, I get off there i ” 


167 



TEN 


I T was in the summer of Nineteen Thirteen that arms 
first glittered in the dark depths of Dublin. Away in 
the North the Orangemen marched and countermarched, 
and Lord Birkenhead to be said that the Irish did not 
care enough about Home Rule to fight for it, and the 
phrase “ Civil War ” became more and more familiar in 
the headlines of the papers, and Pearse said in the hall 
of the Hermitage that the best of the lot of them was 
Carson whether he believed what he said or not, and the 
only way to save Home Rule was to shoot him, but 
that was a weapon no one should use, and the Orangemen 
had guts anyway. Suddenly while Pearse and his com- 
panions began to think that the time had come for a 
revival of the Volunteers of Grattan’s time as a reply 
to the North-East, and indeed something more, another 
war flamed up in the streets of Dublin, and twenty 
thousand men were locked out with Jim Larkin and 
James Connolly as leaders in their battle for the right to 
belong to the Irish Transport and General Workers’ 
Union, Through the grey and fetid tenements went 
new-found Hope with tightened belt against the world 
it knew. In the streets the children sang : 

It*s a wrong thing to crush the. workers^ 
s a wrong thing to do, 

Or: 

Bring your own bread and butter. 

Bring your own tea and sugar. 

And Join Jim Larkin's Uniom 

168 



Remembering Sion 

Evety night a window was shoved up in front of 
Liberty Hall down by the Custom House and Jim 
Larkin’s lined and powerful face appeared to be followed 
by an address on the Strike and the history of the world 
in general in language borrowed from the Bible, William 
Shakespeare and others. Sometimes Jim gave a temper- 
ance lecture, for on this in drink Jim was strong. The 
story went — and all the extensive Larkin mythology has 
Ben Trovato for author — that he had founded his union 
with his bare fists in its beginnings, accosting sturdy 
labourers on the quays with an invitation to join his 
union or fight him on the spot on condition that any 
loser should at once take his card in the new union. 
Soon between his fists and his tongue Jim had a big 
union and there was no need to fight for his membership 
in that sense any more. Then he went all out for 
temperance. No one on earth could bring Jim into a 
pub, not even when inside waited a sympathiser ready 
to hand out fifty pounds to bail out one of Larkin’s 
men, the sympathiser must come out of that pub or he 
could keep his money. Jim now fought for temperance 
and betimes threw inebriated backsliders down the steps 
of his headquarters at Liberty Hall with a fierce: You 
hog, remember your wife and children and don’t come 
back here until you are a man and not a porter-swilling 
beast.” And the moral lesson beliind this had gone 
home, for one thus treated had risen from the cobble- 
stones and shouted at Jim Larkin’s retreating back: 

‘‘ There goes the greatest bloody man since O’Connell! ” 
That was always Jim’s way at meetings: sharp and 
personal as at the anti-war demonstration in an English 
city when Jim had quoted Shaw’s that at the word of 
command any soldier would shoot his mother, saying: 

Serve the old girl right, God save the King! ” A man 
in the audience cried out : “ Hear, hear ! ” With one 

169 



Rememhering Sion 

bound Jim leaped from the platform and pursued him 
from bench to bench, caught him, held him high in the 
air with one hand and threw him down the stairs into 
the arms of the police. Then Jim with indignation on 
his face went slowly back to the platform, looking from 
right to left and asking grimly: “ Before I resume my 
speech, is there any other man here who would like to 
shoot his mother.^ ” There wasn’t. 

Jim Larkin’s speeches have never been collected, which 
is a pity, for no such speeches have ever been delivered 
in any city before or since. Here are specimens culled 
at intervals throughout his career until now, and in 
similar strains he harangued and held the Dublin workers 
of 1913: 

“ We are reluctantly compelled to state that there is 
a want of decency amongst a number of our public 
representatives; but degraded as some of our members 
have sunk politically they have not reached the level of 
the gentlemen(!) who have opened the eyes of the 
thinking workers not only of this country but who have 
at long last exposed to the gaze of the civilised world 
the kind of brutes who masquerade as gentlemen in the 
political whirlpool at Westminster. The orang-utan in 
the Zoo could not do worse nor act in a more degraded 
and monkey-like fashion than the Laws, Banburys and 
M‘Neils did during the debate last Wednesday night. 
Argument is lost on them ; reason they never possessed ; 
common decency is an unknown quantity with them. 
These be your gods, you common, hard-working 
people; these are the objects you place your confidence 
in — baboons whose conduct, we repeat, would disgrace 
the denizens of the cages located in the Zoo. ... A class 
war, yes, my friends, there is a class war. The lowest 
and most degraded class in these islands are insulting 
170 



Remembering Sion 

the intelligence of the class who are foolish enough to 
allow these missing links to prove Darwin’s position.” ^ 

Twelve years later, Jim Larkin on his return to Dublin 
had not lost his style after his years in an American 
prison: 

“We arrived in Westland Row, Dublin, on April 30 
(1923), and since then life has been one long sweet 
song. . . . We found the country torn with fratricidal 
strife. The Stag and the Stool Pigeon, male and female, 
polluted public life by their presence, an armed despotism 
ruled ruthlessly. Murder was rampant. ... A nation 
bankrupt in manners and morals ; words had no meaning 
or application. The sycophant who held His Majesty’s 
commission would bleat of his adherence to Republican 
principles over the grave of a Pearse or attend a military 
Mass in honour of a revolutionary mass-leader such as 
Connolly and then within the hour unctuously sign the 
death-warrant of a Republican. ... A dozen would-be 
MussoHnis stood on the high places and issued their 
edicts. Lay theologians were as plentiful as mushrooms. 

. . . The Press of the country was the hired prostitute 
as always of the finance-capitalists, foreign and native. 

. . . The American dollar had brought the virus of 
commercialism into tlie Temple of Truth and the flame 
of wrath that in the dead gone years had shamed into 
silence the apologists of wrongdoing or seared the soul 
of the oppressor with a phrase had smouldered and 
almost died out. When the poets of a nation become 
business men seeking safety, ease of body, peace of 
mind and a balance at the bank, matters are in a parlous 
condition, and still we have not plumbed the depths. 

. , . We demanded in tones that were heard: Peace. 

. . . Wepausetosay this, our determination and resolve: 

^ Irish Worker, i6th November 1913, 

I7I 



Rememhering Sion 

so long as life vibrates through this our frame^ we will 
never compromise with one of these infamous creatures 
(official Labour is here alluded to) who have trafficked in 
the phrases written and the sacrifices made in life and 
death of a comrade (Connolly, whose bitter private 
opinion of Larkin official Labour had just then published 
to the world: ‘‘He must rule or will not work. . . . 
He is consumed with jealousy and hatred of any one who 
will not cringe to him and beslaver him all over’') 
whose work some of these creatures utilised in life and 
now blaspheme his name in death, . * • Our Resolution, 
1924, No Compromise, Truth, Moral Honesty, Class 
Solidarity.” ^ 

The compiler must pause to remark that something is 
wanting from these extracts : the background of serious- 
ness behind Larkin at his best, the murmurs of admiration 
and confidence that arose from his simple and unlettered 
hearers who felt rightly that here was their chajnpion, 
one who could speak for them in the gate with their 
enemies and shatter with a lyrical scurrility all the cant 
and humbug of the comfortable Dubliners and Nationalist 
doctrinaires alike. Sometimes from Larkin's speeches 
flashed a simple and beautiful phrase; not in vain had 
he gone to William Shakespeare and Francis Thompson 
and Walt Whitman, and these poets he would quote in 
Trafalgar Square or Cork or Dublin with equal con- 
fidence, never afraid to break into song on occasion. 
“ Boys,” he would tell a listening crowd, “ Like Kathleen 
Ni Houlihan (and this allegorical figure of Ireland 
would come into all Jim's speeches all wrapped with 
loving phrases, so glowing that an English admirer 
once turned round at a meeting to his equally puritanical 
Socialist pal beside him, and said : ‘ Who's this Kathleen 

1 Irish TVorksr, 5 th January 1924. 

172 



Rememhering Sion 

he keeps dragging in? I never thought old Jim was 
tliat sort of man! ’) our stricken love, our lost one who 
mourns her four green fields in the hands of the stranger, 
like her we have a hard and stoney way to travel. Let 
not our bowelless masters provoke us before the appointed 
hour. Moderation is our watchword. And now, FIl 
sing the Rising of the Moon / ” 

And that Apostle of Moderation would sing lustily: 

Beside the singing river, a dark mass of men was seen^ 

High above their shining weapons hung their own beloved green. 

Death to every foe and traitor, whistle up the marching tune. 

For our pikes must be together at the Rising of the Moon. 

In his pioneer days in Dublin, Larkin was invited to 
tea at the Viceregal Lodge and reasoned with by Lord 
Aberdeen, who had been impressed by his eloquence. 
This was Larkin's vivid account of the argument at the 
tea-party: ‘“Damn it all, Jim, be reasonable.' That's 
what John Churchill, Earl of Aberdeen wants, and 
Lizzy his good woman too. Be reasonable!" Lurid 
accounts of Jim's encounters with the employers starred 
his nightly addresses: “‘Why do you worry about 
these clod'oppers ? ' they asked me. Clod'oppers 1 I told 
them my life is given to you clod'oppers ! ” But Larkin 
can only be reported by himself. Happily I have pre- 
served one long speech of Larkin which reveals him as 
he appeared in the days of the Great Strike, though this 
speech was in fact given before his departure to America 
in September 1914, after the strike was a memory and 
the war had begun. The meeting was held near the 
Parnell Monument, Dublin, to commemorate James 
Nolan, John Byrne and Alice Brady, who had died from 
baton blows and a bullet during the strike; it shows 
Larkin rousing the populace : 

“ If we had the eloquence of a Burke we could not deal 

173 



Rememhering Sion 

adequately with the subject. Nolan lies dead, Burke 
lies dead. Only two! What of our thousands who lie 
dead ^ What of the thousands of our exiles of whom 
every sea claims its quota? To-day men who marched 
with Byrne and Nolan are on the Flemish shore. God 
help and guard them! Why did they go? No effort 
was made to call upon England^'s last reserve to stand 
fast at home to carry us to our ultimate destiny. Twelve 
months ago to-day, I was at the Imperial Hotel. (Loud 
cheering. An allusion to Larkin’s attempt to address a 
banned meeting from a Dublin hotel owned by the 
leader of the employers, William Martin Murphy. 
Tearing off his false beard he had addressed the crowds 
in O’Connell Street, and brutal baton charges had 
followed). At this hour I was in College Street Bride- 
well, guarded by drunken hooligans. A short time ago 
some of you were writing letters to get up testimonials 
for two of these hooligans. One day a rebel, next day 
an Imperialist, There is a leader (pointing to the Parnell 
statue behind him) who knew where he was going. 
To-day there is no man. To-day we see the men of 
our blood clothed in England’s shame, our own boys 
who should be in green. We have seen England’s 
patriots swinging round the necks of those men, singing 
God save the King. They told you last year that I was 
an ally of England’s trying to seduce the Irish Workers. 
That was a foul lie. Then that I was the son of Carey; 
an anti-Home Ruler. I want more tlian Home Rule. 
I know more of Ireland than that — know more of her 
hopes and destiny (here a man in the crowd interrupted 
and would have been roughly handled but Larkin inter- 
vened, saying every man was entitled to his opinion. 
Assisting the man to a seat in the wagonette beside him, 
Larkin went on). There are two roads. Which will 
you take? We could win our freedom in a week, if 

174 



Remembering Sion 

we told Asquith not a man shall leave Ireland unless 
Ireland has the rights which Canada and Australia have. 
Never mind his bastard Home Rule! We will have the 
same rights as Canada. . . . Redmond does not speak 
for me. He has no right to speak for us. If it is a 
dreadful thing for a man to give up his soul, then it is 
the greatest of crimes to give up the soul of our nation 
for a promise from coward Asquith whose word cannot 
be relied upon. He dared not carry out the law in the 
armed North. Why not gaol them.^ He is too great 
a coward! Our blood was shed in Dublin streets only 
four weeks ago. The assassins went through the streets 
with loaded guns, not to kill armed men but defenceless 
citizens. Let them go out to kill Germans now. I hope 
the day will come when you will stand fast and say 
‘ hands up ’ to this cowardly Government. We can do 
it. There are no better men in the British Isles than 
you. . . . Td win liberty in a week if I had the mandate 
Redmond had. My British comrades with whom I have 
worked, whom I have starved with, have said I am 
wrong to speak sedition to Irishmen. They are English- 
men standing by England. I am an Irishman and am 
going to stand fast by Ireland. They have said I won’t 
be allowed to speak in England. I’ll go and let them 
stop me. They say they won’t send us money. To hell 
wdth their money ! . . . 

“ We have no quarrel with Germany and no quarrel 
with Belgium. My grandfather was put on the triangle 
and pitch-capped. It was not a German who did that. 
For every crime a German has done, England in Ireland 
has committed thousands. England’s path in Ireland 
is drenched 'witli blood. ... In a few days a new 
Pope will be elected. Ask him to demand the old 
Christian creed — Peace on earth, good -will to men! 
Call on Catholic Austria, CatlioBc Belgium for an 

175 



Rememhering Sion 

arbitration board. There is no time for God to-day in 
this fight — all we have time to do is murder. If this is 
Christianity it is about time we had a reconstruction. 
England is down on the knee praying ' For God^s sake 
come to save the Empire ! " Praying to the coolie. I hope 
to God that every coolie who comes to interfere in 
European politics will never go back. We want our 
own good lads to stop at home. Only a few short 
weeks ago we were commemorating the brutal murder 
of our comrades^ Quinn, Brennan and Mrs. Duffy. 
A few days ago they died — murdered. To-day our 
Irish lads are fighting for their murderers. . , . Now 
ril ask you are you prepared to sell yourselves as hired 
assassins. Those who are, show your hands. Those 
who will be tools of England show your hands — Q 
promise to be England’s garrison ’ — you are English- 
men, good luck to you. If you are Irishmen, God help 
you. . . . Follow in the footsteps of Tone and Emmet. 
Stand fast by Ireland and Ireland will stand fast by you.’’ ^ 
The story of the Nineteen Thirteen strike has often 
been told. In these memories of Sion it may be briefly 
put: twenty thousand workers held out for over six 
months for the elementary right to belong to the union 
of their choice, and they were backed by the whole 
forces of Labour in Ireland and Great Britain. It ended 
in a stalemate on the vital issue, leaving Larkin’s Union 
shattered in membership and finance. It opened with 
one of the most brutal batonnings of unarmed crowds 
that Dublin had ever known and split the rising militant 
Nationalist movement from top to bottom, and while it 
lasted the very air of Dublin was electric with revolution. 
The greatest brain in the Irish Labour movement summed 
it up in eloquent words, for thus Connolly predicted the 
story would be told some day by an Irish writer: “ It 
^ Irish Worker^ 5th September 1914. 

I7<5 



Rememhering Sion 

will tell how like an inspiration there came to these Irish 
women and girls the thought that no free nation could 
be reared which tolerated the enslavement of its daughters 
to the worst forms of wage slavery, and how in the glow 
of that inspiration they arose from their seats in the 
workshop or factory and went out to suffer and struggle 
along with their men. It will tell how the general 
labourers, the men upon whose crushed lives are built 
the fair fabric of civilisation, from whose squalid tene- 
ments the sweet-smelling flowers of capitalist culture 
derive their aroma, by w^hose horny hands and mangled 
bodies are brought the ease and safety of a class that 
hates and despises them, by whose ignorance their 
masters purchase their knowledge — it will tell how these 
labourers dared to straighten their bent backs and, 
looking in the faces of their rulers, dared to express the 
will to be free. And it will tell how that spectacle of the 
slave of the underworld, looking his masters in the face 
witliout terror, and fearlessly proclaiming the kinship and 
union of all with each and each witli all, caught the 
imagination of all unselfish souls, so that the skilled 
artisan took his place also in the place of conflict and 
danger, and the men and women of genius, the artistic 
and literati^ hastened to honour and serve those humble 
workers whom all has hitherto despised and scorned.” 

A, E.” one morning electrified Dublin by an open 
letter to the Dublin employers published in the Irish 
Times^ telling them to cry aloud to Heaven for new souls, 
for they were sounding the death-knell of autocracy in 
industry, and warning them that even in the Dark Ages 
humanity could not endure the sight of such suffering, 
and it learnt of such misuse of power by slow degrees 
through rumour, and when it was certain it razed the 
Basdlles to tlieir foundations. It remained for the 

177 


M 



Rememhering Sion 

twentieth century and the capital city of Ireland to see an 
oligarchy of 400 masters deciding openly upon starving 
loojooo people^ and refusing to consider any solution 
except that fixed by their pride. You, masters, asked 
men to do that which masters of labour in any other city 
in these islands had not dared to do. You insolently 
demanded of those men who were members of a trade 
union that they should resign from that union; and 
from those who were not members, you insisted upon 
a vow that they should never join it. 

“ Your insolence and ignorance of the rights conceded 
to workers universally in the modern world were in- 
credible and as great as your inhumanity. If you had 
between you collectively a portion of human soul as 
large as a threepenny bit you would have sat day and 
night with the representatives of Labour, trying this or 
that solution of the trouble, mindful of the women and 
children who at least were innocent of wrong against you. 
You went into conference with representatives of the 
State, because, dull as you are, you knew public opinion 
would not stand your holding out. You chose as your 
spokesman the bitterest tongue that ever wagged in these 
islands. (A reference to the Askwith Commission, where 
Larkin gave evidence and Tim Healy spoke for the 
employers. The Report condemned the employers" 
demand for a pledge.) And then when an award was 
made by men who have an experience in industrial 
matters a thousand times transcending yours, who have 
settled disputes in industries so great that the sum of 
your petty enterprises would not equal them, you with- 
drew again, and will not agree to accept their solution 
and fall back again on your devilish policy of starvation."" 

It was a landmark on the road to revolution. The 
stubborn Dublin workers were starved back to work. 
In the Hermitage, Pearse — ^who openly upheld the 
S78 



Remembering Sion 

strikers^ cause and kept Larkin’s son at his school — 
pondered the social question seriously;, turning over the 
pages of Connolly’s Labour in Irish History, In the 
November the Irish Volunteers were launched at a public 
meeting. Larkin’s men howled down an unpopular 
speaker. There w^as a sullen breach between the militant 
Nationalists and the beaten workers. But perhaps the 
whole story of the Strike is summed up in the question 
overheard betw^een two strikers lined up for the food 
doled out to them each day from the food-ships sent 
over by sympatliisers : “Is there any danger of a 
settlement, Mike ? ” 

Behind the picturesque figure of Larkin rose that of 
James Connolly, and it was said many of the Dublin 
employers had come to thirdc that in their attack upon 
Larkin they had called up a more deadly enemy in this 
quiet man wdth the Northern accent and the grey eyes 
burning with a cold, implacable light under his lofty 
forehead crowned with dark hair. Connolly’s cold but 
glowing words fell on many soils : America from coast to 
coast, a Glasgow street corner, an Albert Hall audience, 
tlie students of the National University, the Nationalists 
who still frown on Larkin, the workers of Belfast and 
Dublin. Even Artliur Griffith, hostile to Larkin and the 
Strike, admits Connolly is a man of his word, nay, the 
one man with a head on his shoulders amongst those 
Internationals, Benevolists, Foreign Emissaries and riff- 
raff down in Liberty Hall. 


179 



ELEVEN 


B ut there is no revolution yet. The Yank tells 
Dinniper all the blue stories he knows to make him 
less bookishj and Sla tells Dinniper that there are several 
things one must learn before one faces the great world: 
cards, funny stories, but above all a sense of proportion. 
And the Dogs settle down to their books and Pearse 
goes away to America, leaving Willie in charge. But just 
before that Dinniper amuses Sla with his lack of knowledge 
of explosives. One night Dinniper was returning home 
along the Leinster Road, Rathmiiies, when he saw a great 
crowd outside Madame de Marcievicz^s house. The 
police had just raided it witliout result. She argued with 
the police, who tried to move the crowd on: Come 
inside everybody and don’t let those brutes molest you. 
Please be to God tlie day will come when they and their 
friends the British shall taste the cold steel. Come inside 
everybody. Any friend of Ahland is welcome.” Ah, 
give over, ma’am,” mutters the exasperated inspector, 
‘^we are not hurting anybody.” The police go away 
and Dinniper goes upstairs. Madame welcomes them 
all and declares that she has just escaped ten years in 
prison by the happy removal of a load of gelignite just 
in time. Just before those devils came. Some Fianna 
boys approach her. She pulls a packet of Banba cigarettes 
from her pocket and lights up with a cry to her dog in 
the distance: “ Oh, Angelface! ” She plunges her hand 
into her pocket again and waves two or three rifle cart- 
ridges at the boys : ” Won’t it be a grand day for Ahland 
when we all put these through her enemies ? ” Demurely 
ign 



Rememhering Sion 

they affirm. Again and again she describes the raid. 
Dinniper is introduced. She again describes tlie raid and 
asks that Mr. Pearse be told tliat the scoundrels and devils 
had got nothing. She falls silent and pensive : brooding 
and fine-featured. As Dinniper goes out a friend whispers 
tiiat he fears the G-men at his heels : to avoid accidents 
will Dinniper take something back to St. Enda’s and hide 
it for him or hand it over to die Volunteers.^ Dinniper 
sees an unfamiliar object heaved from a pocket: a hand 
grenade. He slips it into his hip-pocket with the vaguest 
idea as to what it may be or how to use it. As he walks 
the two miles to Rathfarnham his imagination begins to 
work and the bomb seems to grow hotter. Shall he throw 
it away before it bursts or will it crackle first. Risks it 
and walks ahead. Hot again. Remembers something Sla 
once said about a pin. Pin firm. Loud laughter from 
Sla and Yam when Dinniper arrives with his bomb and 
tale. Sla looks and tells Dinniper that the case is an empty 
one. Pearse looks concerned when the raid is mentioned 
and nods his head vigorously when ten years are men- 
tioned. W onders Madame is so outspoken to comparative 
strangers. “ Quite mad,” says Mrs. Pearse, “ but mad in 
the right way, perhaps.” Pearse sighs and goes back to 
his dreams beside the round table, mellow lamp-glow on 
his falcon face. Dinniper and Yam and Willie argue. 
Dinniper is boiling with suppressed fury over the remark 
of a bronze-haired young woman at Madame’s who has 
declared that she hates all the English with an unholy hate, 
and cannot stay in the same room with any of them, even 
the reputed English revolutionaries who have passed 
through Dublin during the Strike. Dinniper boils and 
swears and boils to the delight of Yam and Willie, but 
Pearse dreams on, only smiling from time to time as 
Dinniper’s furious proclamation of Internationalism is 
countered by Willie. Willie laughs and by hook and by 

t8t 



Rememhering Sion 

crook they arrive at a stage when Willie lays down the 
law on Ibsen^ and tells the funny tale of his stage appear- 
ances in Tchekov recently when he had forgotten his 
words and paused too long, and after the curtain went 
down that ejot from Rathgar who murders all music on 
any instrument and wears the perpetual half-wit smile — 
that was Dinniper on him — rushed round and said: 

William Pearse, I must congratulate you upon your 
splendid acting! Those pauses above all were sublime, 
for in them you caught the very soul of Tchekov!” 
Pearse descends from his dreams and tells many diverting 
tales of his youth. . . . 

Gun-runnings at Howth, , . . Shots in Dublin. . . . 
The war broke. ... In the National the Dogs sported 
the Tricolour and were thought a wild lot of cranks. . . , 
News came to them of friends of theirs who had fallen at 
the front. . . , The Volunteers were split from top to 
bottom. . . • One night Pearse came back with a bruised 
face from a meeting of the Provisional Committee of the 
Irish Volunteers. . . . The Redmondites were fighting 
for control of the organisation, ... At this meeting 
some politician had called Pearse a “ contemptible 
cur” and, after warning, Pearse had measured him 
on the floor, Joseph Devlin was in the chair: ''He 
seemed distressed,” said Pearse. Whatever he may be 
as a politician, he is a gentleman at least.” . , . The 
split came. . . . The war dragged on, ... 1914 
passed. . . . 

Pearse had changed much since his return from America 
early in 1914. He had gone before the war’s outbreak. 
He had made many speeches in the States and gathered 
funds for the school. A question had been asked about 
one speech of his in America by some T ory at Westminster. 
This annoyed Pearse : I hope it won’t injure the Volun- 
teers. It was a mild speech. I don’t want any talk about 



Rememhering Sion 

twisting the British Lion’s tail under the safe shadow of 
the Stars and Stripes/’ 

America had been much : an event, a pilgrimage, wine 
to the spirit, packed halls of auditors listening to the tale 
of Emmet, Tone, the Ireland of to-day as only Patrick 
Pearse could tell it. But he is glad to see his brother again, 
though William Pearse has sent weekly and monthly 
bulletins, and Pearse has written long letters of the 
winders of the oceans and the stranger wonders of 
America. In the lower room of the Hermitage, Pearse 
fills his willow''“-pattern cup and tells an animated tale, 
pacing around the circular oak table and throwing a 
pensive look through the barred windows into the garden 
beyond, where Micheal Mag Ruadhri is talking too, and 
keeping his eye on possible youthful invaders. Pearse has 
encountered on his lecture tour the shipwrecks of former 
Irish movements, Clan na Gael celebrities, Land Leaguers, 
humanists, Indian revolutionaries, reformers, educational- 
ists and old Fenians who had met and talked to him days 
on end — strange meeting of past and future. One name 
occurs again and again ; J ohn Devoy. “ I liked the Fenian 
remnant best,” Pearse adds, grey-haired, iron-souled 
Imman old men who still hope on and sing the songs they 
used to sing in their British prisons/’ Then he had 
planned an early return. The war had shattered all his 
plans and he had made his will and said: “ God alone 
knows where we shall all end, but we are going ahead/’ 
He and Connolly had met, and then into this whirlpool 
of plot and counter-plot with his school sinking and 
mainly conducted now by Willie. 

Still Pearse has one haven yet. There is his little 
cottage down in Connemara, and in the summer of 1915 
I went down there with him. In the railway carriage at 
the Broadstone, Pearse unbent and smiled on his mother, 
sister and Willie. He acted like a gay and winsome child 

183 



Remembering Sion 

intent on a day’s outing, laughing loudly and hurling 
oranges in the air with weird cries in an abandoned fashion. 
He told us of a dream he had had the night before. Pearse 
in this dream found himself on a railway platform with 
several carriages full of Irish Volunteers, A certain 

Father O’H arrived and protested that Pearse was a 

dangerous character, not fit to travel on any respectable 
train: Detain that man! You let him proceed at your 

peril.” Then Pearse had answered indignantly ; '' Non- 
sense! Preposterous statements! My name is Patrick 
Henry Pearse. I am Director of Organisation for the 
Irish Volunteers. My name is well known, I am a most 
distinguished person.” Pearse collapsed into laughter, 
saying the dream ended in a game of hide-and-seek 
between himself and the good Father in and out of all 
the carriages. 

In due course we reached Galway and stayed the night 
there. Before nightfall we explored the city, rowed up 
the Corrib and landed near die stone-built misty village 
of Menlowe, unmortared walls, Irish-spealdng old men 
playing cards seated on stony heaps. Up the Corrib, 
Pearse rowed stoutly and steadily, pausing every now and 
then to utter some deliberated thought. He had suddenly 
become grave and pensive again and this had quieted the 
company, a result to which he was secretly sensitive. I 
remember him dropping a phrase to relieve a spasm of 
silence and restart none too successfully die conversation. 

I always think a boat is a wonderful thing. What a 
marvellous adaptation of beauty and shape to use.” He 
often made remarks like that, and as has been often noted 
his words sounded like sentences from essays. Some mis- 
understood this mannerism and felt amused or uncomfort- 
able. That day Pearse’s love for Connemara ousted his 
pensive mood and he became eager and talkative again. 
His eyes lighted up as he pointed towards Menlowe and its 
184 



Remembering Sion 

grey circle of houses and walls and the Irish-speaking old 
men: ‘'Here Connemara begins/' He walked ahead as 
we explored a demesne and laughed at the warning notices 
in English. Several gamekeepers appeared and looked at 
us curiously. Pearse walked past them, blessing them 
with an air of authority in Irish in God and the Virgin's 
names. They returned the blessing, curiosity and wonder 
in the Gaelic words wrung from them by this imperious 
townsman with the Connacht accent so pat and stern. 
We passed a castle half burned in some ancient war, and 
some handsome country houses. Thereafter the poor 
houses of the Connemara folk, Pearse smiled sadly and 
said with feeling: “ Here alone perhaps in the world are 
these sights to be seen since the French Revolution, hovels 
still lingering at the gates of castles, a rich spiritual life 
with poverty, a poor spiritual life with riches living side 
by side." 

The next day we proceeded to Rosmuck by train, or 
rather part of the way, for Rosmuck lies nine miles from 
a railway station, and we had therefore a long drive by 
side-car through granite and peat and purple from Maam 
Station over winding, pealc-screened roads. It was a 
stirring view along those serpentine roads, ever winding 
and twisting and winding to avoid tlie bog. The liorse 
trotted bravely while an O'Malley drove, and Pearse ex- 
plained what famous people the O'Malleys were in Conne- 
mara and this particular driver and the local pronunciation 
of O'Malley here to be O'Milley or O'Malley, and all the 
while bluish granite mountains soared and beckoned and 
all around spread the peat-bogs starred by the tiny lakes, 
each with a local name and every name known to Pearse, 
who declared for the hundredth time he could find his 
way blindfold on any road in Connacht. The Twelve 
Pins came in sight and Pearse waved his hand here and 
there over the land, naming lake, mountain and district 

185 



Rememhering Sion 

away to the Joyce country under its purple mist. He told 
us many stories he had learned from the people — and who 
could have guessed that behind his gentle words and look 
an insurrection simmered, a certainty that his days were 
irrevocably numbered and this place he would never 
see in another summer.^ Away there on that gloomy 
mountain yonder a stranger had lived for years, coming 
suddenly in the night from nowhere, henceforth a hermit, 
perhaps doing a penance of solitude and silence for some 
deed of blood. We passed a peculiar green building of 
corrugated iron, a Protestant Church, and then Pearse 
remembered that many years before the Bible Societies 
had carried out a proselytising campaign, and even in 191 5 
a small remnant of the Irish-speaking Protestant colonies 
still survived. Once on his rambles Pearse had met one 
of the members, an old man up in a cottage among the 
hills who opened his Gaelic Bible, read it aloud and argued 
with Pearse for an hour until the old man’s daughter came 
in and told her father that he had no manner's and not to 
be foolish and that he did not know how to treat a guest 
and a learned man who knew enough Irish and enough 
Bible to make up his mind for himself, and the attempted 
conversion of Pearse went no farther. A lonely letter- 
box on a post at a cross-roads led Pearse to tell of the 
extravagant family, long bankrupt and extinct, who had 
had the box erected as a monument to their exclusiveness, 
recklessness and pride. A barracks rose beside the rattling 
wheels and Pearse knew that the sergeant witliin was a 
very cranlcy, crusty and cantankerous fellow companioned 
by six splendid constables, enthusiastic Irish speakers who 
spent their time in shooting wild ducks, fishing and study- 
ing with zeal the poems of Eoghan Ruadh O’Sullivan. 
The car stopped at the schoolmaster’s house and Patrick 
Connolly welcomed Pearse warmly. His wife came out 
and told Mrs. Pearse and Miss Pearse how they would 
186 



Rememlering Sion 

find the cottage. Inside like startled birds the four 
daughters of the schoolmaster retreated from our gaze 
while tlieir mother laughed and said they would grow 
out of all that, but when young people lived among lakes 
and bogs they became curlews and mountain birds, easily 
startled by wild young men from the cities and poets from 
Dublin, all this for Willie and me whose ties and locks 
must have startled her ducklings. Proceeded to the 
cottage, a wliite, thatched, oblong building with green 
door, porchway and two windows in front, approached 
by a peat-sodded patli from the main road. Here was die 
spiritual home of Pearse, which in the last years he visited 
every summer to pay a last farewell to 

, . . Some green hill where shadows drifted 
Some quiet hill where mountamy man hath sown 
And soon would reaps near to the gate of Heavens 
Or children with hare feet upon the sands 
Of some ebbed sea^ or playing on the street 
Of little towns in Connacht^ 

Things young and happy. 

And then my heart hath told me: 

These will pass, . . » 

Below lay a fifty-acre lake legend tenanted with a Water 
Horse. Beyond die rare walls of the cottage the Atlantic 
heaved and moaned with tales of lost ships or murmured 
a summons to ride on its bosom to the Arran Isles on a 
fair day. On every side rose the purple hills and peat 
a-gleam with unnumbered lakelets. Pearse sat at the 
kitchen table writing the closing tales in Iiis book of short 
stories, The Mother, He turned aside to discuss the com- 
pleted stories with Willie and me, and said he thought the 
best the grimmest one, a tale of a woman under a curse 
called the Black Chafer.” Then he sighed that he had 
never written a story about turf or shown up enough the 
hard life of the people. He said this sadly with almost the 

187 



Remembering Sion 

air of a man who all at once comes upon an intolerable 
personal grievance. Sometimes he went down and bathed 
in the lake while Willie guarded him from the banks with 
a long, strong rope as Pearse was no swimmer. This 
tickled the brothers so much that they gave up the attempt 
with loud merriment and mutual criticisms. Returning, 
Pearse mused on his cottage and said that one of the 
builders had been an old man who took his task very 
slowly and seriously, making progress by inches, but con- 
soling Pearse's impatience with the sole remark: Won’t 
it be a fine house when it is finished } Indeed it will be a 
fine house when it is finished.” Pearse was more out- 
spoken than I had ever known him before. Night by 
night he spoke to Willie and me about everything by 
turns. Much about the future of the Irish language. Here 
in this self-contained community which he had once 
known as purely Irish-speaking, English was creeping in 
among the younger generation. It amused him when we 
walked abroad in theday-time to speak to themen working 
the land and smile at the English expressions speckling 
the Gaelic: Becripes, Td . , . bedamnedbut from 
those who knew no other words of English, but he said 
tliis was the beginning of the end unless some great change 
came. And what the change would be sometimes broke 
through his thoughts. News of some kind from Dublin 
weighed on his mind as July passed. He read the proof 
of an article he had written on O’Donovan Rossa, whose 
body was being brought back from America. Pearse dis- 
liked what he had written on Rossa and said it seemed 
all words and no right praise for the old Fenian. Again 
he read Connolly’s Worker s Republic^ with its open in- 
citements to revolt and attacks upon the moderate party 
in the Irish Volunteers and he seemed preoccupied and 
uneasy. Once on the roadside Pearse engaged in a long 
conversation widi a Volunteer sympathiser who sharply 

i88 



Rememhering Sion 

condemned Casement’s Irish Brigade formed from Irish 
prisoners of war in Germany* “ How can we defend such 
men/’ the question was pressed insistently^ '' who take an 
oath to fight in an army of their own free will and then 
break it? I wouldn’t trust such men. If they were con- 
scripts they would he right to desert and shoot their 
officers and fight for the devil himself, but this oath they 
have freely taken should bind them.” Peaise looked 
uneasy and admitted he didn’t much like this idea of the 
Irish Brigade. There was force in these arguments. Long- 
ago in arguments Pearse had been wont to declare that no 
oath could bind Irishmen to serve England, even the oath 
of soldiers, strong and all as he had worshipped military 
discipline (‘'It’s the one exception Pat allows to un- 
questioning military obedience,” Willie had said, chuck- 
ling), but in this roadside argument Pearse seemed shaken 
and uneasy. “ I don’t like the idea myself,” he again 
admitted as the sturdy Connachtman pressed the point 
home again and again and then attacked the Germans as 
a pack of military bullies as bad as the English, as vain 
as allies for Irish freedom as the French fleets which tarried 
from victory at the mouth of Bantry Bay. Then Pearse^s 
fire and confidence re-woke in his eyes. They seemed to 
sweep seaward in a promise that on the ocean a hope 
lingered still. His words to us both were vague : " Soon 
. . . you will see, both of you, all of us,” he said, liis 
eyes on the Atlantic. What purpose and hope were 
hidden behind his words } Of what was he thinking, 
a German landing, an arms’ ship, or the body of 
O’Donovan Rossa already coming across the waves? 
He changed the conversation abruptly and we never 
knew. 

The holiday neared i is end. Once we went on a six teen- 
mile walk to Cashel and back,* We visited a quaint hotel 
whose landlord proudly displayed a portrait of King 

189 



Rememhering Sion 

Edward smiling at him. This simple snobbery tickled 
Pearse and he spoke of the landlord affectionately as 
Johnny, walking round the room to admire the picture 
of the King smiling down on a bald and bare-headed 
Johnny. Johnny was a lovable man, said Pearse, whether 
he basked in the smile of inonarchs or whether he didn't. 
I said I would write a sketch of him when I returned to 
Dublin, but Pearse shook his head and said Johnny must 
not be held up to ridicule, as the neighbours laughed 
enough at him already and that was one thing, but to 
put him into print would be unkind, for no one would 
really know what a kind heart Johnny had, whether he 
doffed his hat to kings or whether he didn't. Outside as 
we watched a mountain which peeps up from every part 
of Connemara, another genial old snob looking like a 
retired Colonel, strolled up and waved his hand round die 
scenery: Nothing to compare with it in the world, 

gentlemen, absolutely nothing!” He smiled and pro- 
duced three copies of the Gospel according to St. John: 
“ I bring down these in my trunk for the benefit of the 
peasantry every year, gentlemen.” He begged us to 
honour him by each accepting a copy, not that we looked 
as if we needed them — he would not for a moment suggest 
that we were peasants, but would we oblige him? We 
obliged him, Pearse chuckling all the way back over the 
word peasantry,” and saying he was sorry he had not 
had a very seditious leaflet to give the Colonel in exchange. 
‘‘ Just as well you hadn't, Pat,” said Willie. “ We should 
all have ended in jail. He would have sent the police 
after us.” Then the pair wondered why lovers of tracts 
and Bibles never recognise true religion under a thatch 
when it is barefooted and wrestles with sea and rocky soil 
to keep its body alive. Bibles in English to Irish-speaking 
Connemara with a Faith in its very bones ! So back along 
the roads weary hut joyful with the Gospels in our 
190 



Remembering Sion 

pockets and very little conversational power left 
in us. 

Another day and Pearse and Willie and I went on a 
cycle-ride through Recess, Glen Inagh, Coill Mor, Leen- 
ane, Maam, Maam Cross, some fifty^six miles in all, 
Pearse very confidential as to his early days at school, 
his struggles with his father's business, Willie’s studies in 
Paris, the debts of honour he had taken over, his editor- 
ship of the Gaelic League organ, A71 Claidheamh Soluis^ 
the early feuds in the Gaelic League which had hurt him 
deeply — on no other subject had I ever heard him speak 
with such feeling — Sgoil Eanna and its support and lack 
of support, the sleepless nights the crisis in the Volunteer 
organisation had given him, behind it all phrases and words 
only to be expected from a man who knows his life nears 
the crisis of its end. All through the thirty-six miles to 
Leenane against a strong head wind he spoke like that 
while the sun broiled us. Through moody beauty past 
all manner of Syngesque old men and women. Pearse 
hailed Kilkeirin Bay flowing in several miles among the 
hills as a lake where the British Fleet could be hidden and 
no one tlie wiser. He talked of the islands to be found 
along Lough Corrib, and said all those who were worrying 
about the social systems of the world might do worse 
than stop making speeches and land on one of these 
islands and start all over again with building a world after 
their dreams. All this at Leenane where we devoured 
rashers and eggs before we roused ourselves and had a 
magnificent run back in die moonlight the many miles to 
Rosmuck, where bad news awaited us : Miss Pearse had 
been attacked widi appendicitis and had been ordered to 
Dublin by an early train. Next morning after her de- 
parture we spent a melancholy day until Pearse roused 
us all, saying we looked like a funeral party and we must 
hope for the best. Stirring news reached Pearse as we 

191 



Rememhering Sion 

prepared for almost immediate departure : he was to de- 
liver the O’Donovan Rossa Oration at the Rossa Funeral 
on August the first. Back over the serpentine roads to 
Maam, and through Galway where G-men prowled at 
Pearse’s heels. In the carriage half-way to Dublin a 
truculent and drunken countryman lurched into the 
carriage blowing foul smoke-clouds over all the ladies 
and flourishing a bottle of whisky with an invitation to 
us all to take a swig, Pearse came down from Heaven 
where he weaved the phrases of his Oration with an 
imperious order to the countryman to behave himself 
and stop smoking in a non-smoking carriage under pain 
of instant removal. The countryman issued a general 
invitation to us all to light up and not mind the Pig. 
And until he left the carriage many stations onward he 
kept up a chorus of Don’t mind the Pig, enjoy your- 
selves! ” Sometimes he turned to Pearse and addressed 
him by name as, “You pig, pig, pigP' Pearse sat in 
fist-clenched silence, his face flushed while Willie laughed 
quietly, warning his brother with looks to say no more 
to the infuriated combination of clay pipe, wild hat and 
whisky-bottle at his elbow. We reached Dublin on the 
very eve of the Rossa Funeral and found it electrified with 
the preparations for the lying in state and the march to 
Glasnevin. All the peace of the hills and lakes fell from 
us suddenly. 

Pearse stood beside O’Donovan Rossa’s grave and in 
an immortal Oration sketched himself. His romanticisa- 
tion of O’Donovan Rossa really portrays Patrick Pearse; 
his closing words are a herald of the coming Revolution: 

“And the seeds sown by the young men of ’65 and ’67 
are coming to their miraculous ripening to-day. Rulers 
and Defenders of Realms had need to be wary if they 
would guard against such processes. Life springs from 
death ; and from the graves of patriot men and women 
192 



Remembering Sion 

spring living nations. The Defenders of this Realm have 
worked well in secret and in the open. They think they 
Imve pacified Ireland. They think they have purchased 
half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that 
they have foreseen everything, think they have provided 
against everything; but the fools, tlie fools, the fools! — 
they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds 
these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.'' 

Beside the grave he stood, impressive and austere in 
green, with slow and intense delivery, and as he cried 
aloud upon the fools he threw back his head sharply and 
the expression seemed to vivify the speech which ended 
calmly and proudly. He walked home alone, and sat in 
liis study : at last he had spoken the just word he sought 
to immortalise a man less great than himself. 


N 


m 



TWELVE 


D INNIPER and Yam and the Dog Himself and Sla 
and the Yank sat in the Hermitage on Easter Eve. 
Pearse and his brother had gone away down into Dublin 
on Holy Saturday and the Dogs sat round the table in 
their room trying to decide whether the Easter Sunday 
would see them in armed revolt or was this just another 
rumour and on the morrow it would be merely the 
advertised All-Ireland manoeuvres of the Irish Volunteers. 
They were used to surprises and to Pearse’s talk of 
Risings^ but though Pearse could talk he could also hold 
his counsel. He had given little hint except to ask them 
to write home and remind their relatives to send any 
cheques in future to his mother. Rumours of sup- 
pression of the Volunteers were in the air. This night 
they were fairly certain that to-morrow was die revolution. 
The split among the Volunteers had penetrated even 
among them^ and the Bloody Man had gone out deter- 
mined to stick to MacNeill whatever happened. The 
Dogs were tired. In the intervals of their University 
studies in the evenings they had made bombs and stored 
them in a place of safety. They had had sleepless nights 
making these crude tin-can bombs while Sla had jested 
and the Yank had told hair-raising and humorous storieSj 
and on the Thursday they had said good-bye to Liam 
Mellows down at the Hermitage gate. He had come to 
them disguised as a clergyman from Connolly’s house in 
Belfast after his escape from England and shared their 
meals and driven away to Galway. They spent another 
sleepless night and remembered all tlieir nights’ drilling in 
194 



Rememhering Sion 

the fields and the little mill down in Rathfarnham. 

There are only twenty-five shots to each man of the 
Dublin Brigade/' said Yam; but what about it? " A 
picture of the Risings of Ireland frustrated by a swoop 
of the British Government of the eve came to their 
minds. Sadly they looked at one another : if diey rose 
some would fall. They thought of the great hostile 
Dublin and the guns and forces of England that would 
come against them. And then they thought of Pearse 
and snapped their fingers. Never had they loved him so 
much as these days. They shrugged their shoulders and 
made all manner of jokes, and slept. In the morning 
they knew that a Rising was contemplated, and frustrated 
for the cancellation order in tlie Sunday Independent 
signed by Eoin MacNeill told them what had been 
intended for tlie manoeuvres that day. Pearse came back 
in the evening and hardly spoke. He and his brotlier 
had said good-bye to them on Holy Saturday, and they 
had removed all their bombs and loaded them into a car 
at midnight, and the load was driven to Liberty Hall 
where Dinniper cycled later to deliver a note to Connolly 
sitting guarded in his little room there as cool as a cucum- 
ber, so cool that Dinniper if he had not put tsvo and tw'O 
together would have decided that there was nothing in 
the manoeuvres after all. Easter Sunday passed. In the 
morning the Dogs got two personal notes from Pearse 
telling them to bring everything and join him and 
enclosing the mobilisation order of the Volunteers for 
Easter Monday at ten o'clock. Only seventy members 
of the Rathfarnham company remained after the war 
broke out and the Volunteer organisation split, and of 
these not all turned out. Eoin MacNeill arrived at 
Rathfarnham and warned the company that they were 
marcliing into a military trap. But the officers said they 
would obey dieir orders and marched ahead through the 

195 



Rememhering Sion 

little village to the last tram into Dublin, Except a few 
Volunteers j scouts outside Jacobs* factory, the journey 
in was without incident. At College Green the trams 
were turning back and shots sounded afar off. The 
Dogs were unable to think. They went into Liberty 
Hall and found it barricaded. Then an order from Pearse 
arrived telling them to join him in the General Post 
Office. As they dashed across from Middle Abbey 
Street there was a volley and a second one at the retreating 
Lancers, and looking up they saw the Republican Tri- 
colour floating over the Headquarters of the revolt. 

And this is what happened, told tersely in a note 
smuggled out of Stafford Detention Barracks after the 
collapse of the Rising : it was written on a small sheet of 
paper and slipped into the hand of a visitor, and its merit 
is that it was a synopsis of several experiences in the 
General Post Office and the Church Street area: the 
blanks were left as a precaution in case the paper were 
seized ; 

WITHIN THE GENERAL POST OFFICE FOR THE FIVE DAYS 

The attack on the General Post Office took place at 
noon. A company of Volunteers armed with pikes, shot- 
guns and rifles charged the buildings at the ringing com- 
mand of the gallant officer in charge, disposed of the 
feeble resistance of the small gatrison—inasmuch as the 
lack of ammunition rendered the guard practically un- 
armed — laughed at an angry old lady disturbed buying 
stamps, watched the staff fly pell-mell out, and soon 
occupied the position. Simultaneously the following 
positions were occupied: Lower Castle Yard, Four 
Courts, Stephen* s Green, Jacobs* factory and other 
places. An attack on Portobello also came off. One 
participant relates : Marched according to orders to 
Liberty Hall with small company in which I drilled, 
196 



Rememhering Sion 

little expecting to be so soon in arms against the armed 
forces of Great Britain. Great excitement prevailed and 
the surrounding area was desolate in appearance. The 
door is locked. Congestion of traffic has whetted our 
curiosity as we marched through the average holiday 
crowds and soldiers strolling with their girls past College 
Green. Admitted to Larkin's palace we swarm upstairs. 
The Volunteers are 'out' and Ireland is rising. It is 
evident from the excited shouts to keep ' a watch on the 
railway line ' and ' fill all vessels with water.' Rifles 
and flushed faces. A feeling of momentary sickness^ 
then wonder. An excited youth informs our commander 
that there are no longer Volunteers or Citizen Army^ so 
Mr. Connolly had said when the row started and the 
Volunteers had been addressed in front of the Hall, 
only the Army of the Irish Republic. Commandant 
Pearse sends down a message to us to proceed to the 
G.P.O. We hurry downstairs and at the double across 
Abbey Street "Hurrah for the Volunteers!' shouts 

an aged working man. " Hammer tiie s out 

the !' We rush across Princes Street catching a 

glimpse of a girl crying and hurrying along, a well- 
dressed young man beside her. ICids cheer from door- 
ways. A dim crowd up towards the Rotunda. The 
G.P.O. windows loom before us, men inside with rifles 
behind barricaded windows. Our commander's rifle-butt 
smashes dirough glass and wood and breaks. Scramble 
in and over, shots ring deafeningly in our ears, a cry, 

' the Lancers! ' and a volley from within to stop those 
troops who retire, leaving two dead horses behind. 
Hurry. Locks blown in, men rushed to the roof, to 
second storey. Sacks, books, typewriters are stuiffed in 
all hitlierto not strengtliened windows. Men watch 
grimly behind. Pearse and his brother appear and survey 
die scene calmly within, though the latter looks a trifle 

197 



Remembering Sion 

sad. Vessels ate filled with water everywhere. Cooking 
is carried on where the G.P.O. staff left off. The great 
door leading into Princes Street is eventually covered 
with a rough barricade. A young officer dashes in 
cheering j a smile on his flushed featuies. Later he is 
hurried by^ the lower part of his face severely injured 
with a bomb explosion, his hands, chin and neck streaming 
blood. He is ordered at the revolver’s point — for he 
grows obstinate — when his wounds are dressed and 
shock subsides — to hospital. Blood is new to us and 
we only learn later that he has recovered. Inside or- 
ganisation proceeds. Parties come and go. The crowd 
outside cheers the hoisted Republican flags and the 
Proclamation. Pearse speaks without. Connolly, a 
grim, manly figure in green Commandant’s uniform, 
grasps his hand ; ‘ Thank God, Pearse, we have lived 
to see this day ! ’ An orderly desolation has settled 
down within. A dazed D.M.P. man sits in the yard, 
florid, his head between his hands, but plucks up his 
courage to ask the rebels for beer as he has five children 
and one wife. He doesn’t get anything but Idndness. 
Ambulances draw up outside and bear away wounded 
brought in. The Cumann na mBan girls soon, however, 
have set up a hospital on the ground floor in a former 
sorting-room. Henry Street corner and block opposite 
are gradually occupied by Volunteers. Gun shots and 
startling rumours of Ireland ablaze are as common as 
rosary beads round the necks of the watchers on the 
windows. Fires start opposite, are quenched, begin 
again and we grow used to the flames leaping up as we 
fall into brief spells of sleep or face the whizzing bullets 
whistling past and around us. Pop-pop-pop. Machine- 
gxms are destroying Liberty Hall. Booml Boom! 
Heavier guns. We get used to them. But before that 
we have seen looting without, heard heavy firing in the 
198 



Rememhering Sion 

sleepless nights, stood to arms to resist the long expected 
general assault, seen Volunteers sally out on ‘ death and 
glory missions/ or simply with revolvers and batons to 
suppress tlie looters whom MacDermott has appealed to 
on several occasions. We have heard ‘ Go upstairs to 
meals ! ’ or * Two men dying witliin, be quiet ! ’ with 
equal equanimity. We have learned to reverence more 
the bravery and devotion of the women of our race. It 
is the fire which steals in, around and above us in the 
night which eventually drives us out. Sleep, hunger 
and thirst are dead sensations. At last tire cordon of fire 
ceases to startle us. But the roof catches. We stand 
silent behind three rows of barricades. Joseph Plunkett's 
clear ringing voice and his clear humorous eyes remain 
in our memory. We are in the midst of a darkened, 
leaping, roaring house of fire. We secure rations, and 
dash out upon the street, swept with gunfire and lighted 
widi flames. Some dash up alleys and seek refuge in 
houses as the snipers and machine-gun fire lights up the 
dark alleys. Men begin boring through houses. O'R^jilly 
out-distances his men and dies riddled within a few feet 
of a barricade. Connolly is carried in a sheet and under 
a Red Cross flag to safety. And Nelson's Pillar towers 
above the blazing G.P.O., liis back to Parnell's out- 
stretched hand, on the flames consuming the first gallant 
footprints of rough and courtly heroes on oft-trod long, 
winding, obstructed path to Ireland's freedom." 

Let it stand without correction of its repetitions and 
crudities for a first-hand record of the time. In a moment 
I shall quote two more. I stood witliin it all, and a 
curious cloud fell over my mind and spirits, and a con- 
flict sharpened in my mind. My old Socialist-pacifist 
hatred of war, my doubts about the jingoism and race- 
hatred of Sinn Fein and then the spell of Pearse. A 
working man spoke to me and voiced my thoughts. 

199 



Rememhering Sion 

I knew him slightly, a pale-faced man who wrote simple 
verse in Larkin’s paper and the mosquito Press of Sinn 
Fein, He waved his shotgun towards Connolly and 
said : ‘‘ Things are desperate when an anti-militarist like 
him leads us into this/" Upstairs a woman echoed the 
conflict in my mind, for I could see a glory and a horror 
in all I saw, a deep respect in my heart for all those 
doomed men and women behind the flames and exposed 
to the bullets. Half the Dublin I knew seemed there. 
Sometimes a messenger came to tell us: “This is the 
only cheerful place in Dublin. In the city they tlaink 
that you are all dead men. Black gloom down there/’ 
Upstairs this woman spoke, half to herself, half to a 
poet dangling a revolver: “ Do you know that even if 
the British broke in I don’t know whether it is right to 
take life. It’s all right for the Volunteers. They can 
obey their orders,” 

On the worst night of all, when the fires glared in on 
the ground floor of the G.P.O., Pearse came and sat 
beside me. He was seated on a barrel, his slightly 
flushed face crowned by his turned-up military hat. He 
watched the flames leaping and curling fantastically in the 
stillness, broken periodically by rifle volleys. Around 
him men slept on the floor, Connolly amongst them. 
Others were on guard behind loop-holed sandbags. We 
talked casually for some time, bullets friglitened us all 
said Pearse, only liars were not afraid of bullets, we 
might all come tlirough, perhaps, perhaps not. I shrugged 
my shoulders. I was past feeling, and told Pearse I had 
only one reason for wishing to survive, that I might 
write a book. He smiled and we sat silent, for in ihar 
great agony how futile seemed all ink and pen and words. 
The volleys rolled away, and Pearse watched the flames. 
“ All the boys were safe,” he said, with a sigh of relief. 
Then he suddenly turned and asked me, casually but 



Remembering Sion 

with a certain abruptness: '‘It was the right thing to 
do, wasn^t it?^’ "Yes. Failure means the end of 
everything, the Volunteers, Ireland, all! And the tone 
showed the agony of his mind, but an agony flaming to 
final conviction. Outside the flames grew brighter and 
there w^as a terrific burst of gunfire away in the darkness. 
Pearse paused and continued with deep enthusiasm and 
passionate conviction in his words : " Well, when we are 
all wiped out^ people will blame us for everything, con- 
demn us, but only for this protest the war would have 
ended and nothing would have been done. After a few 
years, they will see the meaning of what we tried to do/’ 
Then tlie conversation turned on the heroism of the 
insurgents; " What a man,” said Pearse, " what a great 
man is 0’B.ahilly, coming in here to us although he is 
against the Rising ! . . . Emmet’s two-hour insurrection 
is nothing to this! , . , They will talk of Dublin in 
future as one of the splendid cities like they speak to-day 
of Paris I Dublin’s name will be glorious for ever ! . , . 
The heroism of the women down there on the quays, 
carrying gelignite under fire in spite of every danger.” 
He shook his head obstinately when I defended the 
Volunteers of iiis company who had sided with MacNeill 
and refused to come out, and these included one St* Enda 
ex-student. ‘‘At least, they might ha\'e stood by me, 
now,” he said, and then added: " If the British capture 
them, poor fellows, they will be shot and not even have 
glory.” 

Back to the old writing on the folded and faded sheets : 
tlte next page tells how the insurgents fared in the Church 
Street area in tlie shadow of the Four Courts: 

Little did we expect when we left home tliat such 
exciting events awaited us. We had heard vague rumours 
of the military raid and thought an ordinary route march 
was before us. Perhaps we might be attacked to-day, 



Rememhering Sion 

perhaps not, meanwhile, we turn out. Reported at 

Hall. Little excitement. Daly (one of the leaders after- 
wards executed) speaks: Men, I want you to listen to 
me for a few moments and no applause must follow my 
statement. To-day at noon an Irish Republic will be 
declared. I only wish to say that communication with 

has been cut off and that in less than an hour we 

may be in action.” A bombshell. Most in good spirits. 
Some unable to stand shock, but only wished to see a 
priest, no cowardice. Best part of week given to barri- 
cading streets, fortifying houses with sandbags, boring 
walls, preparing for retreat if need be, etc. Took up 

position in Street. Only action towards end of 

week, mostly sniping, a very lively and dangerous sport. 
Every one works with a will. Every wall bored is a life 
saved. No place for thought of personal safety. No 
sleep but energetic preparations for fray. Religious 
consolations keep our spirits up and make us indifferent 
to our fate. (Opinions expressed by several men there) : 

Did not expect to live from the start but relied on the 
Sacred Heart.” Only wished to live to talk about the 
fight with comrades and live to fight another day. The 
cause w^as good. Got word to evacuate long-held 
position on the Friday evening. Moved towards Nordi 
Brunswick Street. Sniping much in evidence. Got to 
new position in safety though comrades fell beside us. 

Captain is wounded.” is dead.” 

was lying dead in yard close by. Two more lulled up- 
stairs. No panic at this, rather callous in fact. The pale 
and nervous faces of some hardly conducive to courage 
or confidence. Advise comrade to stand in front of me 
and take cover. He does so, A bullet strikes his belt; 

Fm shot ! ” “ Run to the nearest hospital and Vll 

cover you! ” Discovers that bullet is only in his belt. 
Priest goes upstairs to attend dying, brave as all the 



Rememlering Sion 

priests weie in the midst of the gravest danger every- 
where. Six or seven o'clock on Saturday evening the 
report comes that Commander-in-chief has surrendered. 
Priest only has it as a rumour. Council of war held by 
us. Captain was wounded. Commandant absent. No 
prominent officer present. Fight to a finish " agreed 
uponj not unanimous but “ we'll stick to our leaders." 
Completely cut and to fight to a finish seemed futile. 
Prepare for machine-gun attack. Surrounded on all 
sides by troops who grossly over-estimated our strength. 
They had steadily pressed in upon us. An attack would 
have overwhelmed us. Truce agreed upon after a priest 
had said: ‘‘ For the sake of God, men, and the women 
and children, listen to me. You don't know what we 
have endured for the last week. I ask you to call a 
truce so that the dead and wounded may be taken off 
the streets! The English have called a truce.'’ “ Can 
we trust an Englishman's word?" Truce, perforce. 
Surely God saved us from death that night. A charge 
meant death eventually. Truce kept on both sides. No 
shot fired all night. Sentries retired to rest after dark. 
Our leader, a young chap of twenty was plucky: Boys, 
the Fianna Fail knows no surrender, (Poetic name for 
the Irish Volunteers: the Militia of the Isle of Destiny 
and present name of the de Valera party.) We have 
provisions to last, and we will fight till death! “ Aye, 
aye! " said we. Truce continues till Sunday morning. 
Heard Mass, received Holy Communion at the Mass, 
dressed up and stand to arms to await written orders of 
surrender. Did not know Pearse was in Dublin Castle. 
Pearse's letter arrives and is read out. Our leader to the 
dumbfounded British officer : We only expect the 
treatment of the men of Ninety-Eight ! " Unconditional 
surrender. March out, surrender, lay down arms at 
fixed spot. Marched to Castle and afterwards to Rich- 

203 



Remembering Sion 

mond Barracks. Linenhall Barracks was burned during 
the fighting in this area."’ 

The next page reads in part when certain repetitions 
from the first G.P.O. account have been omitted: 

We are rushed to the roof after our arrival while 
the inside organisation proceeds. P(earse)5 meanwhile, 
quiet and businesslike. B. (Willie), likewise, but a trifle 
sad and pale. We on the roof are rushed in various 
parties to occupy positions. The three flags of the 
Republic float over our heads.” I(rish) R(epublic), “ It 
flaps defiantly in the centre. Sense of a dream which 
even now has not vanished sets in upon us. The usual 
holiday crowd watches undisturbed, even waves greetings 
to us. Mechanically we would do or dare anything. . . . 
Kids below are singing- Crowd cheers Proclamation. 
Soldiers walk unmolested and unarmed widiin five yards 
of our guns. Nightfall. Meals of tea, rice and rumours. 
We laugh. No sleep. Heavy firing in distance, in Four 
Courts direction. No sleep. Dawn rises over the city.” 

Tuesday , — Roof still. Smaller crowds in streets. 
Rumours of Ireland ablaze. Cork, Kerry and Limerick 
are up and the Curragh line is held both sides. We 
don"t care much. We get used to the bullets. “ Hurrah ! 
Who’d miss it.^ Is so-and-so ^ out Who was killed.^ 
Good man, a pity. Keep under cover ! ” Inquiries as to 
advance of troops from different quarters. Our men are 
to be seen manning shops opposite. Organising of inside 
and outside defence proceeds- Telephone in good order 
but the wire is a nuisance when one moves across the 
parapet. A barricade blocks Earl Street. Looting begins. 
A fire opposite is put out- Another starts. Get used 
from then to fires. General preparations to resist siege 
and, if need be — make last stand. Rain falls and drenches 
us to the skins. We get waterproofs. News of P(earse) 
from the gent in the fur coat (the Yank): in 

204 



Remembering Sion 

good form/' (P. and B. inspect the positions next day.) 
No sleep. Hunger, a past and dead sensation. Night. 
, . . Queer faces in the sky, . , . Wireless flashes from 
the D.B.C. Restaurant. Get used to stray bullets and 
feel good. Drunken man singing is killed by stray shots. 
Kids singing below: We are the Volunteers, we'll 
whack the British Army." Fires proceed, dawn, sleepless 
but happy. When will we be wounded.^ 

Wednesday . — Roof still, with an odd visit below. 
Stoics, Firing from the quays to Abbey Street. Tap-tap- 
tap. Liberty Hall is gone. Artillery and machine-guns 
at work. Get used to it. Next sensation please ! Bullets 
overhead and down the street. Promise of relief. Ordered 
below later where we see our friends. Willie: “That 
fire cannot be stopped. It will catch the whole block." 
Pearsecalm. James (Connolly) : “Boys, they're beaten!" 
Fall asleep while the fires glare in. Ten hours solid rest. 
Good outside reports. 

Thursday * — -The blaze spreads along opposite block- 
house to house. On guard at windows. Boom! The 
place shakes. Gets stale with repetition. Frequent stands 
to arms. Snipers and heavy artillery new'' and prevalent 
excitements. Connolly wounded in sortie. Armoured 
car report, and rumour of contemplated advance through 
Imperial (Hotel's) ruins of troops. Pearse addresses us: 
“Her name is splendid among the names of cities!" 
Fires behind in Henry St. Linenhall ablaze. A terrible 
and depressing night. But the songs ring out and 
another dawn comes. 

Friday , — Morning lull. Is it arbitration,^ Fire gains. 
The street in ruins. Hasty barricade in front in three 
rows of coal sacks. Constant stands to arms. Keen 
sniping from upstairs. Men on roof struck with shrapnel. 
Desperate fight against the fire which has now burst out 
upon the G.P.O, roof. Fire wins. One constant stand 

aoj 



Retnemhering Sion 

to arms and tension. The women have departed in the 
morning. One darkened, roaring, leaping blaze in front, 
above, behind. Debris crashes in. Communications 
entirely cut. Expectation of general assault. Rations 
secured. Men shoot two of themselves by mistake. 
Order to retreat. Dash across the bullet-swept and 
flame-lit street. Men fall. Henry Place to Moore St. 
Plunkett rallies men past a fire-swept barricade; “ Don’t 
be cowards ! Advance ! ” Past and into houses. All 
night borings and snatches of rest. Odd meals. Sleep. 
Fires raging. Nelson looks down on blazing G.P.O. 

Saturday . — Waiting under cover. Rumours as to fire 
in new position. Preparations for final charge in rear 
and front of barricade closing our exit. “ Postponed 
six hours ” perhaps., countermanded. Waiting, waiting, 
waiting. Negotiations opened by English. [jzV] Departure 
of Pearse as firm as a rock. Tears in MacDermott’s 
eyes. Two o’clock surrender. March out. Plunkett 
and MacDfermot) beside us. Corpses on pavement, 
ruins around us, fires smouldering still. The Last March. 
Officers of British Army cover us with huge revolvers 
as we turn into O’Connell Street, lined with troops. 
The disarming. We lay down everything. 

The fires smoulder still. Red Cross wagons as silent 
as ghosts glide by. Small parties of Volunteers march 
into the street, bearing white flags, mere specks against 
the lines of soldiery from Parnell Street to Earl Street. 
The rifles are taken off the cobbles and the Tommies 
lumber away beneath their burdens. Soft murmurs and 
groans escape through the teeth of the Volunteers as a 
Second Lieutenant or two here and there lingers over 
the pile of surrendered weapons, slips an automatic 
pistol into his pocket. Darker and darker. What do 
they think in Cullenswood and the Hermitage ? What- 
ever has happened outside Dublin ? Any wounded there 



Rememhering Sion 

requiring attention ? Any wounded, please step forward ! 
Murmurs : stay where you are, so long as you can walk 
don't go whinging to them with a cut finger or a sore 
leg. Away to the Rotunda Gardens march the rank and 
file, Tom Clarke, Joseph Plunkett, Willie Pearse, Cumann 
na mBan girls— all to be herded together in a close- 
packed heap on the grass. A circle of steel outside the 
railings and above on the Rotunda roof, a machine-gun 
and party of khaki snipers. An ofiicer watches us 
quietly, but he is soon replaced by another, dark- 
browed, florid and thick-lipped. He strides around 
looking for looters and threatening to have us all shot 
and telling us not to smoke, not to stand up and not to 
lie down and if we want lavatories to use the beds pro- 
vided and lie in both. He roars madly at his own men 
and issues the most contradictory orders. Here and 
there he rushes, shouting at this man and that man, he 
will have them shot in the morning as looters. He 
strikes matches and holds them in the faces of his 
prisoners, yelling; Anyone want to see the animals ^ '' 
He bends over Plunkett and snatches a document from 
an inner pocket : Ah, his will ! Knew what he was 
coming out to get." He snatches a whistle from Willie 
Pearse witli a sneer. He has first-field dressings torn 
from the coats of Volunteers, Red Cross armlets ripped 
away with bayonets. “You are a nice specimen of an 
English gentleman!" snarls an exasperated victim at 
him. He strides past swearing. His brogue deepens and 
at last he withdraws. Ice-cold winds and lurid dreams, 
and then morning comes. The officer has found his 

voice again. He yells at Tom Clarke : “ That old b 

is the Commander-in- Chief. He keeps a tobacco shop 

across the street. Nice General for your f army! " 

He has Tom Clarke searched and snatches scarfs from 
men here and there, A police inspector arrives and eyes 

207 



Remembering Sion 

him coldly. The Volunteers are marched away. They 
look back at the officer and mutter: dark night, a 

dark lane, a stout stick— and that fellow! ” Years later 
the officer’s dark night comes : he is shot dead in County 
Wicklow. But that morning he has the laugh of them 
all, a warrior who should make Mars vomit, laughing at 
the vanishing lines of marching Volutiteers under heavy 
guard, Tom Clarke smiling proudly, MacDermott limping 
painfully, Edward Daly, Clarke’s nephew, pale and deter- 
mined beside him, and Michael Collins all unknown. 

In the dismal rooms of Richmond Barracks, where 
the dark-eyed hawks of G-men pointed and pounced, 
we waited. ... To the North Wall then, heavily 
guarded. 

Heaped together in the darkened and stuffy hold with 
life-belts for pillows we wondered still. ‘‘ They don’t 
look an ill-nourished lot,” said a soldier as we filed down 
the stairs, “ and they can march.” We dozed fitfully in 
the darkness while the sea gurgled beneath us, prepared 
for anything from a watery exit from some prowling 
German submarine’s torpedo to an awakening in France. 
Murmurs in the darkness while insects bite: “ We didn't 
think what we were about, our leaders talcen and our 
arms and the whole organisation broken ... no wonder 
the British officers were in such spirits in Richmond 
Barracks, they’ve bagged the whole Sinn Fein movement 
, , . oh, blast them and you, I’d do the same to-morrow 
. . • will they send us road-maldng in the war zone, do 
you think . . . no, the country is still fighting , . . 
they’ll put us in a camp until the end of tlie war . . . 
they can only do one of two things, shoot us or lock 
us up . . . they’ll shoot Pearse and the leaders . . . 
bloody fools if they do, why didn’t they let us walk 
home, then the citizens of Dublin would have torn us to 
pieces for them, daren’t show our noses there for years 



Rememhering Sion 

. . . Christ, I wish I had a cigarette. . . Holyhead 
at dawn and the gulls and the Welsh hills. . . . The 
train jolts onward, packed. The light shows us grime- 
faced and weary-^eyed. No conveniences for deportees, 
hold on boys or soak your breeches. Mostly we hold 
on and fall asleep. The train stops and guarded man 
for man we pass out on to the platform. News at last. 
Flaring green and black and red inky posters tell us the 
worst; Irish Revolt Collapsing . . . Smashing the 
Irish Rebels , . . Rebel Leaders order Men to 
Surrender . . . End of Irish Revolt (Official) , . . 
Inside the Dublin Cordon. So the world knew and 
England knew! England in front of the station and 
lining the streets knew its mind about us: “You all 
ought to be shot . . . stick a bayonet in themL" 
Glowering lines of hostile eyes and several screaming 
militant ancient dames. A bellicose civilian follows us 
up to the very gates of the former Jail, now a military 
detention barracks, howling for our blood. We march 
through and hear as we pass a Staff-Sergeant yell passion- 
ately at the civilian: “Go and fight for your f g 

country! These men ’ave fought for theirs!'' 

It is just eight o’clock. We line up, the sergeants 
glaring sourly. The attempt to read our names offers 
too great a problem to English lips and ears ; not all are 
Murphys and Higgins, there are the bewildering hosts of 
tlie Agnews, Coughlins, Connaughtons, Gallighers, 
Geoghegans, Geraghtys, Dennanys, Foys, Harpers, 
Haydens, Kavanaghs, Shouldices, Steinmayers, Turmleys, 
Tyrrells, Tuohys, Vizes, Whelans, Musgraves, Murtaghs, 
Nunans, Lawlors, MacDonaghs, Joyces, Sweeneys, 
Sullivans, Ranldns, Pollards, Pooles, Prices, Ryans, 
Regans, Ledwiths, Lowes, Lundys, McArdles,McEIligotts, 
Monks, Doggets, Omans, Rings, Hendersons, Helys, 
Hayes and the Lord knows what ! We are led away to 
0 Z09 



Rememhering Sion 

the cells with the five flags, thirty-five panes of glass and 
iron black door to think things over without any company 
but one slate and pencil, one bedboard, one stool, table, 
can, bowl and glass, our thoughts and the noises of the 
town in the distance. For three weeks it is almost a 
solitary confinement without a book or news of the 
outside world except the silent march round the stone 
exercise-ground. On the landing above, however, an 
Irish sergeant abolished this regime off his own bat, 
leaving some doors open, bringing in papers and tobacco, 
arguing witli his prisoners and telling them that if they 
only said they had come out to fight Carson and the 
aristocracy no one could lay a finger on them. He held 
long and animated arguments with his charges on the 
rights and wrongs of the European War, quoting the 
papers verbatim and maintaining the German armies were 
mostly paper armies and the alleged casualties of the 
Allies paper losses. He had lost one eye in the Dar- 
danelles but that had only made him more prone to 
twinkle all the more in the remaining eye. He was all 
for the Rebels in his wing and told the sergeants in the 
other part of the prison that they had only a miserable 
gang of harmless suspects but he had under him the 
Real Stuff, men who had fought and fired off rifles and 
had seen Pearse and O’Rahilly in uniform in the burning 
G.P.O. itself, and cursing the powers that had starved 
him on his transport back from the Dardanelles he went 
down the passages humming Soldiers’ Song. If his 
charges had only waited “ for the war to stop,” he had 
no particular objection to insurrections and tricolours. 
And finding some thirsty and gloomy prisoners on his 
landing, free, gratis and for nothing, he left in a bottle 
of whisky and told them all the news he could. 

But this was only an oasis in the desert of silence and 
solitary confinement. It was for the most part an un- 

•>TO 



Rememhering Sion 

premeditated solitary confinement. Our khaki guardians 
came round to give us mugs and mattresses and to 
examine the cells : it took them the best part of a week 
to adjust themselves completely to tlie invasion. “ What 
caused the riots ? What caused the riots ” they asked 
on the first morning. I remember being rudely awakened 
that morning by two sergeants and a parrot-nosed 
Civilian Subordinate in blue mshing in at an unearthly 
hour to shake me to wakefulness and roar indignantly: 
“ Get up, get up, God you ! ” 

We heard early that we must shine the tins until we 
could see our faces therein, must fold our blankets along 
certain lines, keep our cells as clean as pins, listen to 
what the Staff had to say to us, preserve the strictest 
military discipline with silence, not whistle or sing, not 
attempt to communicate with the other prisoners, not 
look out the windows under penalties of bread and water 
and an appearance before the Commandant. 

“ What brought you into this ? ” asked a tall lance- 
corporal curiously tlie first day. I told him I belonged 
to the Irish Volunteers and naturally went out with them, 
and we had as good a case as his. He nodded curiously, 
yes, yes, but at this time, a war on . . . military had too 
much on their hands to think of bothering with us. . . . 
He shakes his head and goes out. . . . The Staff himself 
arrived, his moustaches finely waxed and paternal and 
sorrowful : 

*' Deary me, deary me, and ’ow did you get into this 
mess.? Another good Irish name. Yes, my lad, I can 
spell it. Deary me, deary me, why ever didn’t you wait 
until the war stopped .? ” He goes out, his fair head and 
moustaches drooped and at half-mast for the folly of the 
Irish. Even his years in India have confronted him with 
no such madness. . . . With vulture eyes and beetroot 
face another sergeant came, saying he was a Roman 

2II 



Remembering Sion 

Catholic and his sister kept a pub at the North Wall, 
Dublin, and for a consideration it would be quite easy 
to enjoy a smoke up the grating there. . . , Whenever 
he left anything, at wide intervals, in the course of his 
duties in the cell, he interrogated himself and then 
presented himself with a handsome testimonial as to his 
kindness in the treatment of the wild Irish. We had 
been told to hand over all our money as we entered 
but had kept some. 

Mainly four half-crowns Willie Pearse had handed to 
us with a queer smile the morning after the night in the 
Rotunda Gardens. “ Take it,” he said, “ you will 
need it.” Then he looked away down tlie street, and 
remembered the swearing maniac the night before. 
Nothing much would happen to the rank-and-file, he 
thought, and then shook his head and fell indifferent. 
We lost sight of him after the flock of hawk-eyed 
detectives in Richmond Barracks. The half-crowns 
remained in our pockets until one day these keepsakes 
vanished from our pockets after a visit to the baths 
where we held a long argument with one. Sergeant 
Moulton. We thought the vulture-eyed one swooped in 
our absence although when we mentioned our loss he 
sighed over the wickedness of those military prisoners 
who had been cleaning the passages while we were in 
the baths. Sergeant Moulton smiled a shocked smile 
when we told him of the loss and he acquitted tlie 
prisoners with a sceptical grin. But we forgave the 
vulture-eyed one for the information he had casually let 
drop that he had an extra pair of eyes in his posteriors 
and only wished these eyes had not been so slack when 
we had left keepsakes in waistcoats in all innocence. 

Time vanished for the three weeks of solitary confine- 
ment, and nothing remained in the world but sunlight on 
the wall and meal-times and a recalling of every word I 



Rememhering Sion 

had ever read and every scene I had ever known and 
moments of conversations with the cleaners tlirough the 
peep-holes where I spent many hours when not walking 
up and down. In the accomplishments of scrubbing floors 
I found a new excitement and a pride as I pinned the last 
pool of water in the last corner while, when the chaplain 
had prayer-books served out half-way through these three 
weeks, I found much pleasure and profit in the Seven Peni- 
tential psalms. Exercise of an hour and then a half-hour 
again of running, walking and running round and round 
a series of stone geometrical monstrosities in the barrack 
yard by comparison was a joyless diversion. We were 
isolated from each other, in spite of an attempt to tap 
Morse messages through the walls and morning whispers 
and one glimpse in the second week in the chapel where, 
as a reward for our good conduct, “ Hail Glorious St- 
Patrick was played on the harmonium and our eyes were 
gladdened by the auburn beard of Darrell Figgis, whom 
a sergeant told us had confessed to the Commandant that 
he was the bloke that had started the whole business, and 
the Commandant, a most courteous man, had immediately 
separated him from the other prisoners at exercise and 
shoved him into a cell with a china tea-pot and the com- 
pany of another literary gentleman who also claimed to 
have started it all, quite unaware that Darrell and the other 
gentleman could not bear each other and had perforce now 
to play chess together until the Commandant paid them 
another visit and had another argument with them about 
the rights and wrongs of rebellion against the State. 
Darrelfs appearance in the role of inspirer of the revolt 
surprised nor annoyed no one. But his temporary appear- 
ance as a pious Catholic annoyed several wits who, at a 
later stage, brought him the compliments of the chaplain 
and a request from him that he should please call all the 
men together to find out how many were in the state of 

213 



Rememhering Sion 

grace, the chaplain being so busy that he wished to reduce 
the number of unnecessary confessions, and if Mr. Figgis 
would get all in the state of grace to fall out to the right, 
and the opposite to the left, the chaplain would be much 
obliged to him. Darrell was going ahead in all seriousness 
when a second message was concocted from the chaplain 
which saved him. 

The life of the deportee has been often told, and these 
pages need not be cumbered with that tale again. Two 
incidents stood out in my mind of the days before we went 
away to internment in Frongoch, after an interval, when 
the cell doors had been thrown open and we enjoyed 
political prisoners’ treatment inside the old jail. One night 
before the solitude had been broken down and we had 
definite news of anything, I sat in the cell, ignorant yet of 
even the end of the insurrection or the executions or 
whether we should stay here all our days, with merely a 
feeling that all the world I had known had ended. All 
the horror of the Dublin scene returned. All the depres- 
sion of the surrender and the hours since and the foolish 
remark of a sergeant in O’Connell Street for some reason 
came into my thoughts : “ Old Casement had a bullet put 
through him when he landed in Kerry. He’s done for 
anyhow.” Whether the sergeant believed this or not, or 
whether he said it to annoy his prisoners or whether it was 
the wish being father to the word I never knew. But 
round his words shaped a vivid picture of the landing of 
Casement, a red light flashing over the seas, and one more 
tragic failure. A load was lifted off my spirits with the 
picture: in a vivid flash I knew that Nineteen Sixteen 
belonged to history and this tale of Pearse and Casement 
would never be forgotten. But what the future would 
be I could not tell with the conflict in my mind which had 
come to life in the General Post Office. 

Some days afterwards when the cell doors had been 
214 



Rememhering Sion 

opened and we spent much time in the exercise yard the 
future w'alked beside me and spoke to me and I knew it 
not. The deported were relieving their feelings in im- 
promptu football matches with makeshift paper balls. A 
frenzied mass of swearing, struggling, perspiiing men 
rolled and fought over the ball in the middle of the yard. 
From the din a tall, wiry, dark-haired young man emerged 
and his Cork accent dominated the battle for a moment. 
He went under and rose and whooped and swore with 
tremendous vibrations of his accent and then disappeared 
again. ‘‘ That’s Mick Collins,” I was told, but the name 
meant nothing. As I returned to the main building with 
the otliers I noticed him again. He smiled, stretched out 
his hand and pleasantly inspected the book I was carrying, 
the autobiography of the well-known Irish writer, Canon 
O’Leary. Collins glanced quickly through the pages, 
making quick comments. This very trivial incident would 
have passed out of my mind long ago only it is linked with 
another meeting in Cullenswood House on our return to 
Dublin when Collins entered a room, lifted a book and a 
newspaper, again rattled out quick comments and went on 
to talk of other things. In StaiFord he often dominated 
the exercise ground with his voice in protest or jest. 

In batches we were transferred to Frongoch after due 
notices that we were of hostile associations and reason- 
ably suspected of having favoured, promoted or assisted 
an armed rebellion against his Majesty.’’ We refused to 
fill up any forms demanding our release or saying that 
we had been offered the opportunity of doing so. The 
Camp was a disused distillery and I spent about three days 
and a month there. The Camp has been often described, 
and there is little of interest in my memory until one day 
I go on a trip to London. It was a habit with me in those 
times to keep a diary for want of something better to do. 
With the help of my unwritten diary of the time as 

215 



Rememhering Sion 

well as the written one this is how it fared with me 
from 

July 20j 1916. 

Go on London trip* Through the green of Wales 
which smacks of Wicklow, well-guarded to the city I 
have not seen since July two years before, no September 
two years now I come to reckon it, it seems centuries for 
since Stafford and the Camp the world seems to have been 
standing still. To a motor-bus while passing soldiers call 
out to our guards : '‘You are in nobby company to-day/" 
Through unknown London streets in an unknown part of 
London, not London of childhood only seen in summer 
trips since wnth memories fading. How strange to hum 
through the London streets in wartime with khaki and 
bayonets beside you. Far cry from the Old Garden in 
Brockwell Park and the arguments with the Christian 
Brothers in what is now Ruskin Park. Is Brother George 
whaling German backsides somewhere as he whaled ours 
in the long ago.^ No, too old. Into Wormwood 
Scrubbs, a lean-faced warder glaring and a carbuncled- 
necked warder highly indifferent. All property handed 
over and placed in small bags. Comparative quiet, even 
more so than in Stafford in the early days. Convict garb 
everywhere and wild distorted faces through the win- 
dows beside each cell. Read the sentences. A man 
released to-morrow after fifteen years. Nice world to 
go back to. Would have hailed it as Paradise three 
months ago. Well, what do you think of it young man 
asks the warder who hears my story of the Dublin revolt. 
So we all had guns. Seeing life, eh, no, this ain’t no life 
for no one. Blue coats, keys jingling, three shelves, 
regulations, six books mostly religious, awful pietistic 
tripe, what wouldn’t I have given for the Bible though 
some months ago. Friday^ 21. Examined in due course 



Rememhering Sion 

while the wardei' of the night before sympathises and 
the lean-faced yellow Press limb of stupidity glowers and 
mutters. Saw William O’Brien in the exercise ring this 
morning. Paternal examination. Usual questions. 
Thursday^ 27. Released after great fight for my towels 
with the Welsh sergeant. 

Return through Wales. Songs^ arguments, sleep on 
boat, songs entering harbour, never expected to see 
Ireland for a decade, perhaps in way won’t, for somehow 
or other Dublin will always be another city now with so 
much and many blown away. Saint Enda’s again. Girls 
from Rathfarnliam ask us about several others in the 
camp: “ They should all be here soon for yous had the 
bad name.” Bad name never saluted the police, P.H. on 
principle would never light up at night and always rode 
on the footpath; so did his Dogs and much the Fat 
Sergeant cared but that meddlesome devil did who way- 
laid every one round Terenure. Not far from the bog 
himself, that’s what Napper Tandy told him the night he 
left a bit of his coat with him. In Rathfarnham the people 
have turned round in our favour and quizz the lads who 
didn’t come out. View ruins of city before we go on to 
Saint Enda’s. Meet the Reddins at Mass. Revisiting 
school, a melancholy tour yet realise nothing. Dream 
sensation still endures. Might be a rush of boys in any 
minute, Pearse’s study very silent. Pausing in his bed- 
room I stooped and kissed his pillow. A dream surely, 
no, inevitable end. Only for two shattered doors and 
cupboard in Study Hall all as before we went away. The 
days pass. Decide to go in for the Degree Examination, 
Anything but this stillness. Visitors. Shown to two 
bloody Englishmen by Mrs, Pearse as specimen of mad 
Sinn Feiner. They are polite but watch out for the bomb 
in my pockets. Like my friend Dathi when shown by 
his mother to the Unionist lady: ‘‘My God, was it 

2x7 



Remembering Sion 

children like that who raped all those women ? ” George 
Roberts arrived with his golden beard and pigeon eyes. 
The friend of authors, volcanic beneath his Ulster smile, 
am to visit him later in his Dun at Dalkey. George not 
strong on dogma but loves true religion and undefiled. 
He has visited all the 1916 widows with literary remains 
already, agreements in his pockets. He comforts the 
afflicted with dreams of royalties. He and his shade of 
Berkeley, one Hone and Lysaght the Gael. They’d all 
go a long time beside a stone wall before they’d take a 
bite out of it. Mrs. Pearse puts her foot down about the 
Autobiography. Read this later and wonder why. Only 
a scruple about mentioning some of his relatives still 
alive. But he meant it for publication for there is nothing 
that could offend or tittilate the gossips. Otherwise he 
would never have said there was more poetry than truth 
in this autobiography. Only up to his tenth year though 
there are later references. Pity he had to finish the 
pamphlets and had to leave this. Also that a page of 
tlie Singer was burned in the fires. Mrs. Pearse has many 
scruples about publishing something that might make 
people “ say Pat said this or that.” Nervous over the 
criticisms of Griffith in his Irish writings. Minds more 
than Griffith would mind. Visitors and again visitors. 
They walk through the lonely house and ask questions, 
touching this book and that. Some self-styled 
“ Catholic ” rag in Scotland is voiding its guts on the 
1916 leaders. Pearse, a pagan, MacDonagh, a suicide. 
Piles of letters to Mrs. Pearse : a poem from an old man 
down the country : 

Kings with plumes may adorn their hearse^ 

But angels meet the soul of Patrick Pearse I 

Also amazing epic in country paper about the siege of 
the Post Office, thousands of cavalry it appears charged 



Rememhering Sion 

the building, dying and dead to bite de dust aroun’ de 
Gay Pay Oh.’^ Jack arrives smiling bitterly. Hates to 
hear his poem recited. God forgive us for all the poetry 
we wrote when under key. Pearse used to say that 1916 
would xid Ireland of some bad poets if it did nothing else, 
but his calculations went astray. Jack smiles when I tell 
him the cross-Channel papers say the rebels were all 
poets : Are you one ^ '' he asks, Down in Dublin the 
tide runs fast. Last night several Volunteer officers on 
the run drop into the Hermitage, and away again to 
sleep in some small camp among the hills. G-men 
plump, tall and hawk-eyed hover and stroll through the 
city. Visit a Fete, a blaze of tricolours spreading fast. 
In groups released men and citizens argue and argue: 
was it better to be shot with Pearse or jailed with Mac- 
Neill Voices raised stoutly in defence of MacNeill and 
Griffitli. Viper whispers: MacNeill was bought by 
English gold, he informed the Castle about the Rising. 
He had signed the Proclamation. Hobson. The released 
men and otheis squelch this talk with quick looks and 
terse words. The tale spreads: when MacNeill heard 
that Maxwell had had a pit dug for fifty, lime complete, 
he wrote and asked for a place in it. “ We are a tame 
lot,^^ says another voice. Why didn't someone shoot 
Maxwell before he left Tell this to Godfrey, the plump 
medical, when I visit him. Godfrey has a collection of 
bones which he examines with racy comments. He asks 
why the whoreson didn't stop talking and plug the old 
bandjax himself. It was a lady's voice. Trust them, 
said Godfrey. They are writing letters to many of the 
released men saying they all ought to be shot for leaving 
the other poor fellows behind and promising to behave 
for the future. This after all the trouble we gave in 
refusing to fill up any forms. Meet a member of the 
MacNeill party whom the ladies say was locked up by 

219 



Remembering Sion 

his wife although he was always making wonderful 
orations and had his photo painted in oils looking a 
regular Wolfe Tone in his Volunteer uniform before the 
scrap. He tells me of the letters and we talk away. He 
grows serious and says he hates all women except his 
wife. He thinks the 1916 widows have let him down 
badly. He goes away repeating slowly they have let me 
down. Meet Alice later. She is sad and silent except 
when an unfortunate who had not answered the call 
appears. Why didn't she herself I wonder as the mali- 
cious questions rattle on and the unfortunate wriggles and 
blushes. Hear later she couldn't. Sat silent watching 
the positions. . , . Would have gone in if she could. 
Silent all the day after MacDonagh was shot. Never 
stopped talking since. Weary of this Dublin with its 
undercurrents of hate burning in the fires of a slander- 
ous tongue.” Again this evening a group gabbles about 
MacDermott's jokes to his court-martial; made them 
try him seven timeSj why didnh he have the glory of 
dying right away. Oh, I’d like to glory some of you 
with a half-dozen of Mills bombs, so I would. Wonder 
much. Circles and insistent things. A pleasant inter- 
lude: the ladies, thank God, are not all widows yet. 
Some of the Yank’s friends arrive and in a pleasant 
interval I show them the peaches in the greenhouse but 
they decline to be shown the croquises and depart de- 
claring it is easy to shake me out of my pensiveness. 
Yank in his next letter from the Camp says he’ll climb 
into my ear when he gets out if I don’t leave his mots 
severely alone. So on till October and I pass the B.A. 
exam. 





THIRTEEN 


B y Christmas nearly all the Dogs were united again 
under the roof of Cullenswood House for the Hermit- 
age was closed down for tlie moment. The school was 
restarted and when the last internee left Frongoch, de- 
serted at Christmas, the Dogs decided to have a hooley 
for the Lord alone knew when Sla and Hurricane Hal 
would be released from Dartmoor, but to take their places 
were Spud and the bold Dennis Bracken. The Yank felt 
lonely without Sla, but reckoned he couldn’t go into 
mourning for the poor old son of a bee. So the bold 
Gulkin turned up with his old Tin Lizzie and said : “Boys, 
you’ve had a rough time. Let’s have a night down on the 
old farm.’’ And the Fat Rat read them all a lecture for 
being foolish young fellows, but Yam and the Gulkin fell 
on him and bejaney they near throttled the life out of him, 
and asked him what did he do in the Little War, daddy, 
and how would he ever look his grandchildren in the face 
for not marching into the fray with Bighead down his 
quarter of the world, but the Fat Rat stood by what he 
said and said his views were well known, but his heart 
had bled for them all as he watched the fires in a big field 
the whole week. They told him to cut out the sob stuff 
and gave him a boot behind, and they all got into the old 
Tin Lizzie together with three cheers for themselves and 
the Gulkin who made the old farm in two shakes of a 
cow’s tail. Dinniper was there mighty solemn, for he was 
off on some new racket this time, and bejakers he was so 
glum that you could nip straws witli his antimacassar j so 
the Yank said it was time that Dinniper should be taken 



Remembering Sion 

in hand instead of mooning his life out, and what he 
wanted was some goddamned joie de vivre. So after they 
had all been dancing and singing and talldng over all the 
old times and Pete and the great week itself, what must 
the Yank do but dare the bold Dinniper to have a glass 
of the hard stuff. So Dinniper had one, and liked it, and 
said the Yank was his Guardian Angel, and of course 
Dinniper, who did nothing by halves, must have another, 
and when the Yank dared him to finish that decanter 
before him bejakers he had it polished off before you could 
wink and that put some petrol in Dinniper’s Tin Lizzie, 
I’m telling you, for he got mighty eloquent and tried to 
address them all in Chinese and wanted to kiss all the girls 
there, and would have begod only the fifteen years’ old 
what’s name began to work and clown he went bang on 
the floor saying to the Yank: “ By the Holy Poker you 
may be my Guardian Angel but some So-and-so here has 
made me drunk!” So the Gulldn came in very wrathful 
and said it was a shame to set poor Dinniper off for he 
couldn’t carry it and hardly knew the taste of a drop, and 
carried Dinniper upstairs to bed over his shoulder, and the 
Fat Rat and his other brother, the Devil, said it was a 
bloody shame; and the girls, who all had a soft spot for 
Dinniper, were shocked to see the poor lad go all to pieces 
like that, and it threw a gloom over them for at least half 
an hour and they gave the Yank a bit of their minds, and 
said he ought to be ashamed to start off a poor lad who 
had only known the taste of coffee till then ; but the Yank 
said he was sorry, for Dinniper would never stop once he 
started till he drained the Liffey dry and danced on tlie 
banks. Never any moderation about that guy in anything. 
Then the Yank smiled his smile that had melted so many 
tender hearts in its time, for even while he was locked up 
he had thirteen proposals of marriage from the States, and 
the girls relented, but were mighty solemn for another 



Rememharing Sion 

while, when they cheered up and said right out: Well, 
after all, Wolfe Tone himself got drunk ! So begod the 
dark cloud lifted from the assembly and they went at it 
heel and toe until the dawn and you could hear the shrieks 
of the Fat Rat escaping from the Dog Himself and Yam 
and the Gulkin a mile down the road. And in the morning 
Dinniper got up and had two baths and two breakfasts 
and the Gulkin answered several phone calls inquiring 
about the poor lad^s health. And the Yank said some 
sons of bees had all the luck and he"d climb into the ear 
of the first guy who mentioned the deplorable exhibition 
the night before from their friend Dinniper of whom they 
all expected better things, and the Gulkin and the Devil 
told Dinniper not to worry, but take a hair of the dog 
that bit him. And he did begod — the best action of his 
life — for becripes he was getting impossible. 

The next thing he and the bold Dennis Bracken were 
painting the town red and coming home footless together, 
out on the blind, elephants, every otlier night. There was 
nothing wrong with Dennis B. except that he had missed 
the bloody racket and drought it a reflection on himself 
just like his friend the Alph, who’d been on the flat of his 
back during the scrap, but blamed himself for not being 
there. So between arguing with the Alph and listening 
to the honest artisans singing to the honey bees over their 
pints in this pub and that pub and the next pub, Dinniper 
was soon on the mend, though the Lord knows what was 
up with him in the first place except something he called 
his soul, and Dennis B. said for the sake of the fifteen 
squindng, club-footed orphans of the jumped-up militia- 
man to tie three knots in it and throw it in the LifFey and 
have another. Dennis B. saved his blessed life for odier- 
wise he would have gone on reading books about spiritual- 
ism and Russian novels and ended up in John of God^s. 
There is no place like the pubs of Dublin for lads who 

223 



Remembering Sion 

have bats in their attics and it would the mercy of God 
if all public men in the city of Dublin were compelled by 
law to spend a year's probation in the pubs of Dublin 
and were then exiled for ten years before they were 
allowed on any platform^ for then they would know 
something about Ireland and not think the sun rose in 
their back gardens and that the world was hanging on 
their words. A few pages of the Liffeyside Decameron 
would take some of the starch out of those fellows. And 
that reminds me of the next excursion of Dinniper and 
Dennis B. After they had sampled all the pubs they 
thought they ought to visit the salons and see how the 
political world was going on, for one can see too much of 
low life and even a good thing can be overdone. Bejaney^ 
they were sorry they didn't stop in the pubs at first. For 
in the salons they met lads who spoke like President Wilson 
and looked through them and asked in a loud voice : “Who 
are those two young men ? Have they evah done anything 
for Ahland } " And young ones talking fifteen to the dozen, 
and serious six-footers with waving beards who hated each 
other like poison and thanks be to heaven a few gunmen 
with a revolver in each pocket, the best of the lot, and a 
crowd of gazaboes with the limelight on them for ever 
and ever. But the queerest merchant they struck was the 
bold Ignatius, who had five brothers in the Church, and 
it should be the other way round, the five in the world, 
and Ignatius locked up in a Trappist monastery. He'd do 
no harm there instead of wagging round Dublin giving 
out his codology and telling us what every sensible person 
in the country had known for years and years. The only 
way to stop him was to bring out the Lifl^eyside Decameron 
or the vernacular, and then you couldn't see him for dust, 
and off with him to hammer out some open letter to some 
bishop or other on his old tipper-tap. It was no use 
telling him he was a fanatic. That made him purr like a 
224 



Rememhering Sion 

family of cats, for he was rushing round the place making 
speeches and raising ructions to further orders. When he 
went into any prison the Governor swooned and the lads 
all said: “Good-bye to the quiet times! ” The pair of 
them could never teach Ignatius the jolly olAjoie de vivre. 

And there was not much Joie de vivre after that, for dark 
clouds came down over Dublin and the Dogs scattered 
all over Ireland. The Yank had to cross the seas and ended 
up in the American Army. The Dog Himself went up 
the country, and spent the rest of his life on the run, walled 
up from tlie Black and Tans when they came, and leading 
columns over the mountains, and hunger-striking and all 
tlie rest of it. Dinniper took to the pen, and Yam got so 
hot in himself that after a bit the bloody Government sent 
him over the seas to cool his heels. And there arose 
another generation that knew not Joseph. And that is 
the last of the Dogs in this book, thank Heaven, 


P 


225 



FOURTEEN 

I N a Rathmines basement in the January of 1917 I 
attended a remarkable meeting. It was my second or 
third visit to that basement, and there I had met D. L. 
Kelleher for the first time, writing poems, while Con 
O’Leary laughed at the groans of Kelleher as the land- 
lady, Ma Power, kept talking at the door and interrupting 
the rhymes and muse of D, L. Kelleher. Con used to 
sit at his table to all hours of the night writing his Exiles 
Bundle, When he moved out to Sandymount some time 
later after his return from the nightly grind of a Dublin 
newspaper, he wrote as if every moment were his last about 
the Leeside folk . . . but at this moment he was only a 
chorus of laughter to the groans of Kelleher. Kelleher 
had the sublimest indifference to all the political bats that 
were then whizzing about my garret and the most 
magnificent and fanciful vocabulary I had ever met. 
He would dash off an epigram a second and the epigrams 
would fly round Dublin and across Europe for years and 
hit him between the eyes at some out-of-the-way shrine 
or mountain and lake when he least expected it. He told 
me to quit chasing the bats that annoyed me so much 
and write down all the sayings of Pearse that I could 
remember and throw them into a box and look them up 
in due course and write a book about them. Everything 
under the sun was pulled to pieces at that Rathmines table 
except God and Cork, which Kelleher would never allow. 
The friends of Kelleher cover the earth, and once in 
London, years later, we were having tea together and I 
had inflicted many questions on Kelleher about the future 



Remenihering Sion 

of Ireland, and Kelleher had sent up several verbal rockets 
to make me talk about something else, and in the whirl 
and colour of his speech I had quite forgotten the woes 
of Ireland, when a sad and quiet Italian passed and saluted 
Kelleher. ‘‘ That/" said Kelleher, is the last man who 
got out of Smyrna when the Turks burned it.” A jolly 
Irish voice sounded behind us and a hefty Southern 
Unionist sat down beside us and enjoyed the speech of 
Kelleher until Kelleher introduced me to him in these 
terms : This fellow was out on the rampage with Pearse 
in 1916, but now he has gone flat and that"s why he knocks 
round with the likes of mel” The Southern Unionist 
jumped a foot in the air and said: Good God! You 
never know who you are speaking to ! "" And Kelleher 
grinned and said in mighty enjoyment: “Watch your 
step. Ryan might pull a bomb out of his pocket."" And 
then Kelleher talked the head off the two of us. I nearly 
gave Dinniper"s friend, Ignatius, a fit once by quoting 
Kelleher. Ignatius was on his high horse about the 
Treaty in Bewley"s Cafe in Westmoreland Street, and 
Kelleher had |ust left me amidst a shower of adjectives, so 
plunging back into my memory I gave Ignatius one fair 
and square on the solar plexus with : “ Kelleher has just 
said that all you idealists infringe Christ’s copyright."" 
That held up the argument, for Ignatius could only gasp 
after an interval of two minutes : “ He had no copy- 
right."" I have never seen him so shaken before or since. 
But such sayings with Kelleher are three a penny. In the 
January of 1917, Kelleher had summoned liis meeting to 
found a society to watch the files of country newspapers 
for Hidden Genius . . . Thirty-two Counties, Thirty- 
two members, each a County. . . . T. C. Murray, the 
dramatist, took the chair, and Kelleher made a long speech 
to explain that in all the country newspapers poets and 
writers were hidden and lost for want of encouragement, 

227 



Rememhering Sion 

and if the thirty-two members would search the columns 
of their counties and got in touch with the writers 
approved by the thirty-two, then such writers might be 
hailed and encouraged, and even a volume published by 
the united efforts of the society. The society only met 
twice again, for its members had enough Hidden Genius 
to supply two cities for several decades. T. C. Murray 
was then the most famous member of the society: he 
afterwards wrote Autumn Fire, Kelleher himself sat 
down and turned Cork into a ballad, Padna. He wrote 
an earlier version which was sold out in a fortnight, but 
when he wanted it republished all the satisfaction he got 
was a letter from a sad publisher, who said that the poem 
was a work of genius and he would like to republish it, 
but his firm had the proud boast that all their publications 
could be read aloud at the convent dining-table in the 
presence of the most scrupulous Reverend Mother, and 
Kelleher had used the expression : “ God damn this vest ” 
— so with every regret, etc. By the next post Kelleher 
had transmitted the opinion to a learned Dominican, who 
replied that whoever saw evil in this poem had a yellow 
streak, and without comment the opinion was again sent 
to the publisher, who sighed but did nothing. 

One reason the society found little poetry to republish 
was tliat the poets of Ireland at that time had quitted the 
columns of the country newspapers and betaken them- 
selves in very large numbers to ballad sheets. These 
ballad sheets hung all along the Rathmines Road and 
round Harcourt Street and in all the small shops of Dublin 
but for the most part, though sometimes a jewel gleamed 
from a window, the poets were either copy-cats of the 
singers of other days, borrowing metre and even sentences 
from them, or flat topical jinglers, and perished witli the 
day. Then Kelleher himself gathered a band of poets 
together, not more than a dozen, and issued a monthly 



Rememhering Sion 

poetic four~page magazine^ Angus. And though Angus 
was hopelessly outnumbered by the ballad sheets in the 
windows, the contributors all lived to sing another day, 
including Con O’Leary and Richard Rowley. 

Dublin about this time enjoyed thrills and rumours of 
further risings. St. Patrick’s Day and public holidays 
were the favourite dates, while military proclamations 
studded tlae wails on the slightest provocation. The 
Volunteer organisation stirred to life again and its banned 
uniform was to be seen in many processions. In Cullens- 
wood House I came in touch with Michael Collins, who 
sometimes used a small office downstairs. My picture of 
him as he then was I have written in The Invisible Army. 
There were two Micks as you watched him in his small 
office, one, the jolly gasconading, hard-swearing, good 
fellow; the other, a dour, quiet man who lived with his 
life in his hand, heroic, dignified, a thinker, a fighter, a 
mystery. In the dark and restless days after the insur- 
rection he emerged, and already in Cullenswood House 
it was evident that he was not only a guiding intelligence 
in the political and guerilla struggle but a romantic and 
mysterious and inspiring figure. Within two years a 
legend had gathered round his name. To his friends in 
Dublin he was Mick to the outside world he was a 
new edition of the Scarlet Pimpernel and De Wet rolled 
into one. At the first glance tliere was a swaggering 
aggressiveness about him, that roistering Gascon over- 
bearing manner which made Cathal Brugha declare: 

He was made a romantic figure, a mystical character 
such as this person certainly is not,” A brave, bitter 
little pill was Cathal Brugha, “ the foxy-haired, furtive- 
eyed leader of the irreconcilable gunmen,” as the Morning 
Post described him with the clarity of hate, a judgment 
more affectionately confirmed by the words of ex- 
President Cosgrave: Except for war he is not worth a 

22C) 



Remembering Sion 

damn for anything else, but that he is a great man for war 
I bear witness to, because even when the spark of life 
was practically gone out of him he was as full of fight as 
when he was going into it.” After Michael Collins had 
heard the worst that Brugha had to tell him publicly 
about himself, he turned to his friend and biographer, 
Piaras Beaslai, and said : “ In spite of all he has said, I 
have still a sneaking regard for Cathall ” For the little 
russet-haired man with the piercing eyes of blue and the 
seventeen wounds was as great a man and legend as Mick 
himself : all Dublin knew the legend which repeated itself 
in Cathal Brugha’s last hour : alone he stood in the South 
Dublin Union at Easter 1916, a revolver in each hand, 
and drove back the attackers and sank riddled behind his 
barricade, and when his comrades rushed to him, asked 
them to sing “ God Save Ireland ” while he died; but he 
lived to die, revolver spitting defiance at tlie green-coated 
troops of Michael Collins’s army in June 1922, in 
O’Connell Street, “ as full of fight as when he was going 
into it.” 

With the clarity of hate, Cathal Brugha described 
Michael Collins and said the worst that could ever be 
said of him : “ I don’t know to whom he referred when 
he mentioned this word ‘ bullies.’ Possibly he may have 
referred to me as being one of them. In the ordinary 
way I would take exception and take offence at such a 
term being applied to me, but the amount of offence I 
would take at it would be measured by the respect or 
esteem that I had for the character of the person who 
made the charge. In this particular instance I take no 
offence whatever. Now the Minister of Finance (Collins) 
says something about Tammany Hall methods. I know 
nothing about them. Possibly he does. . . . Can it be 
authoritatively stated that he ever fired a shot at any 
enemy of Ireland.^ . . . Well, what exactly am I going 
230 



Remembering Sion 

to say to you ? That Michael Collins does not occupy 
that position in the army that newspaper men said he 
did. . . . Mr. Michael Collins might very well say^ ^ Save 
me from my friends. , . If Eamonn de Valera did 
not happen to be President^ who would have kept 
Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins and myself together 
These random phrases, which certainly do not convey 
die fine personality of the speaker or do justice to the 
case he makes at length in the speeches from which they 
are taken, do suggest the Devil’s Advocate’s brief against 
Michael Collins : his bullying manner, his underground 
methods, the newspaper legends about him, only true in 
part, which ignored his very greatness. It is true that 
he fired very few shots in his life: Easter 1916 and one 
ambush are the only battles his enemies will allow him. 
It was the tradition to call him a bully, and as one watched 
him in his office in Cullenswood House the tradition was 
understandable, for his manner and language when un- 
punctuality was in question would have made the peppery 
Colonel of legend swoon with horror and dismay. But 
had Michael Collins only written over his office door: 

Brisker and Better Revolutions,” his sensitive critics 
might have understood him better, and it must be added 
he always fought his match. His scowl and his fist 
hammering on the table and his tornadoes of oaths and 
epithets were reserved for those of the highest rank in 
the movement. If you visited him in one of liis offices 
and heard him addressing some visitor in terms of un- 
measured fury with ** these bloody fellows ” and 
lousers ” singeing the air and his watch flourished 
with fury in that visitor’s face, it was a safe bet that the 
victim was a man very high in the Irish Republican Army 
who quite understood Mick’s little way. If Collins was 
laughing and making withering personal remarks about 

^ Laughter, Treaty Debate, pp. 377-370. 


231 



Remembering Sion 

his visitor’s capacity or courage or efficiency, itwas another 
safe bet that his visitor was at the very least a Cabinet 
Minister in the Dail. On the other hand, if you heard 
Collins talking with humility, deference, and almost 
obsequiousness to his visitor, the one so honoured was 
sure to be an obscure figure in the world of Sinn Fein. 
And he was capable of the most generous and thorough- 
going apologies for his outbursts, saying with out- 
stretched hand and a winning smile that he had been 
wrong and that he knew he was a hard man to work 
with. And Mick only swore for fun. It was like 
watching a juggler to listen to his outbursts — outbursts 
violent, grotesque, ever witty and vivid, never common- 
place nor sordid. A twinkle came into his eyes after 
these wordy bouts, almost a twinkle at his own expense. 
His offices were models of order and neatness. He often 
worked ten, fifteen or eighteen hours a day, and when 
he was seriously ill his friends had to use both force and 
guile to persuade him to stop. “ Mick is a lion for work,” 
they said, liking him none the less when he roared like a 
whole den of lions ready to devour Daniels, real and 
spurious. 

Two legends survived from that Easter Week whence 
Collins emerged as the most bewildering figure that 
Ireland has ever known. In one Collins was represented 
as being the most sensitive in his reaction to the horrors 
of the fight, almost frozen to horror by a sudden realisa- 
tion of the blood, flame and doom of the Post Office. 
In the second, some hours later in the retreat from the 
burningPost Office through Moore I.ane, another Michael 
Collins emerged, a truculent, dashing fighter in his green 
uniform, who swore tremendously and shepherded men 
past a fire-swept barricade, storming defiance at the flying 
bullets. These stories as told by men who were beside 
him have each the ring of truth. For here, suddenly, 
232 



Remembering Sion 

Michael Collins grew to greatness^ some spark in his soul 
blazed to splendour, and as the Easter Week leaders 
marched to tlieir death, whatever fates guard Ireland 
reached out and quietly draped a mantle of leadership 
around the silent, grim young man watching political 
detectives picking out his comrades for the firing parties 
and the prison cell. The hawks never deigned to swoop 
on Collins, although one snatched Sean MacDermott from 
his side as they were marching to the boat. So he was 
deported to Stafford where I first saw him, although I 
had been in the Post Office with him and through the 
retreat in Moore Lane. This meeting I have already 
mentioned, and my liking for him awakened by the 
contrast in his comments on a book, quick, intelligent, 
serious speech, a kindliness, a force from the roaring 
giant of some moments before under the mass of frenzied 
footballers. In Cullenswood House he entered a room, 
lifted a book and a newspaper and rattled out his quick 
comments, and went on to talk of other things, but in 
between the real Michael Collins flashed an unforgettable 
impression upon my mind. He tlirew down the book of 
poems with the merry judgment, for he was in one of his 
most boisterous moods: ‘‘Ah, Swinburne! That’s the 
melodious old bandjax, witli no sense in his words at all 1 ” 
Mick laughed uproariously and lifted the newspaper, still 
thinking of the poets : Do you know Kelly and Burke 
and Shea, ‘ The Fighting Race,’ now there’s a fine poem 
if you like.” Mick grew silent and read the newspaper, 
which was an old copy of the Gaelic League organ with 
the famous article in which Pearse announced the founding 
of the Irish Volunteers, “ The Coming Revolution,” the 
very one the orator in Sean O’Casey’s Plough and the 
Stars draws upon to embellish his rhodomontade. The 
article ends; “We must accustom ourselves to the 
thought of arms, to die sight of arms, to the use of arms. 

233 



Remembering Sion 

We may make mistakes in the beginning and shoot the 
wrong people; but bloodshed is a cleansing and sancti- 
fying thing, and the nation which regards it as the final 
horror has lost its manhood. There are things more 
horrible than bloodshed; and slavery is one of them.” 
These words Collins read aloud with a sudden passion 
which transformed him from the easy and almost cynical 
man of a moment before into another, tense, enthusiastic, 
jaw set and eyes on fire. The veil fell again, Collins told 
a funny story, chatted and swept out. 

An official description of Michael Collins issued by the 
British Military Headquarters is said to have thus described 
him : “ A surly-looking, fresh-complexioned individual 
with a harsh accent. He is rather fastidious about his 
neckware, and has a weakness for silver-headed walking- 
sticks.” In reality he was manly-looking, wiry and 
energetic in frame, a manner lively among intimates but in 
public somewhat reserved, betimes aloof but with the 
suggestion of incalculable reserve force. Fair-haired, 
broad-featured with two humorous grey-blue eyes which 
sometimes burned to amber a-gleam in his pallid face on 
which was stamped unusual character and determination. 
When excited he spoke with a loud and pronounced Cork 
accent. 

At that moment when Collins read out that character- 
istic extract from Pearse in his militant mood, any auditor 
might have been excused for placing Collins on a pedestal 
in history near to Pearse, in making this person the 
mystical and romantic figure Cathal Brugha declared he 
certainly was not. The auditor would have remembered 
something else besides the spark from Pearse which 
lighted Collins: Collins was just then reorganising the 
Irish Republican Army shattered by the insurrection, and 
he, like Pearse, was also Director of Organisation of that 
body. Like Pearse, Collins was also vital and ambitious 
2^4 



Rememhering Sion 

and strong-willed. There the resemblance ended and an 
instructive contrast began. Collins himself never claimed 
Pearse as the source of his inspiration. Rather^, if his 
writings are any guide, he looked to Tom Clarke and 
Sean MacDerniott. He was no dreamer, and a more 
practical and ruthless man in liis methods tlian Pearse, 
whose learning and idealism he lacked. At this moment 
he was regarded as the very incarnation of out-and-out 
physical force Republicanism, and an amusing story was 
told of an encounter between himself and Arthur Griffith 
at a meeting. Griffith sat quietly while Collins broke out 
fiercely: “ This Sinn Fein stunt is all bloody balderdash! 
We want a Republic!’’ Griffith fixed him with an 
ironical and inimical glance and a pitying smile. Collins 
relented and added; “Of course I don’t know much 
about Sinn Fein.” Griffith shrugged his shoulders and 
said acidly : “ Evidently not, Mr. Collins, or you wouldn’t 
talk like you do.” Michael Collins though he was build- 
ing up an army and running a revolution on business lines, 
still retained the tempestuous and aggressive manner 
which had marked him as an exile in London. Once he 
had startled a London-Irish club by delivering a lecture 
on the role of the Catholic Hierarchy in Irish history, and 
tradition went that he ended his address with the words : 
“ Exterminate them!” We have his own word that in 
exile he resented jokes about Pat, pigs, blackthorns and 
whisky, and often punched the jokers on the nOvSe for 
these mildewed witticisms. 

The greatness of Michael Collins was not apparent to 
the first glance, and even his biographer, Piaras Beaslai, 
has confessed that when he met Collins for the first time 
in a Gaelic League branch in Dublin he little realised in 
this merry young man the future Michael Collins. There 
was nothing aloof about Mick, and he was no marble 
statue. Yet he shattered the British Secret Service and 

2^5 



Rememhering Sion 

fought the Black and Tans to a standstill, and there was 
about him a spell. Sometimes the Gascon vanished and 
the veil lifted. It lifted for me as I listened to him that 
day in Cullenswood, or talked to him for odd moments 
in his office. There romantic rope ladders and secret 
inks jostled files and maps, and one caught glimpses of 
sailors and Volunteers, and in the midst of it all Michael 
Collins running his revolution beside his neat desk, and 
documents stacked round his typewriter and reading the 
Times and Manchester Guardian every morning before he 
launched a loan or a jail escape or a battle. That is a 
just picture of Collins at the time, and it was underlined 
by complaints from his critics that he was running the 
movement and doing everything on his own, and tliere 
was the usual whisper that he was a British spy, inevitable 
decoration of Irish leadership. Efficiency was the watch- 
word of this hero of popular romance, and for flaming 
barricades and forlorn stands and rousing orations he 
brought — or the movement of which he was the storm 
centre and guide brought in this second stage of revolu- 
tion — guerilla war. Instead of open insurrection Ireland 
turned to a smothered war. Into the movement swept 
Ireland with all the virtues and vices of Ireland. And 
through it all Michael Collins escaped raid after raid and 
spy after spy by the simple expedient of trusting to luck, 
sleeping in different houses and riding through Dublin 
on an ordinary push-bike. Why did he paralyse the 
cleverest Intelligence Agents the British Government 
could employ.^ Beaslai's two tomes tell us to-day half 
the answer. Collins had won over the members, or most 
of the important members, of the political branch of the 
Dublin police as well as the Royal Irish Constabulary. 
Whereas to some, although the thing had never been 
done before, Mick Collins was no longer a Scarlet 
Pimpernel, which would no doubt have pleased him, for 



Remernhering Sion 

the legends about him must have often amused him. 

Ohj this literature ! '' I heard him sigh comically once 
whennews was brought him that one of his Commandants, 
already on the run from the British, had to fly from the 
angry inhabitants of his native county for a realistic novel. 
Michael Collinses friend, Batt O'Connor, however to 
some extent placated the thirsters after romance when he 
revealed in his well-known book how he had built secret 
hiding-places for Collins worthy of the pages of Dumas 
and the Baroness Orczy. It was all very well to sneer 
that there is no pursuit when the hunted is in with the 
hounds, but there were other packs besides those the fox 
had won over. No foiled pursuer need ever blush as he 
reads Mr. O'Connor’s accounts of his hiding-places and 
how luck favoured Collins, who missed raiders by seconds 
and bluffed them with audacity when he was in their 
hands, Mick moved freely through hotels and restaurants 
or cycled through the Dublin streets or attended a com- 
rade’s funeral at the height of the Terror, or went to the 
very gates of Mount] oy and indeed once past them and 
into the very cell where one of his captains lay under 
sentence of death, shrugging his shoulders with: ‘Mf I 
am taken I am taken, and that’s that!” Or his eyes 
would glow and his voice vibrate as he told you : I am 
always hopeful ! ” 

His sense of humour never deserted him, and in his 
encounters with his pursuers he was so cool and impudent 
that they ended by seeing him everywhere. Raiding 
parties would dash into houses shouting Iris name and 
drag off respectable citizens who had the bad luck to 
resemble the one bad portrait of him the Castle had. In 
the hottest days of the chase, Mick boarded a tram in 
Dublin and sat down beside a G-man notorious for his 
determined pursuit of men on the run.” The G-man 
was well known to be a courageous man, but his feelings 



Remembering Sion 

may be imagined when Mick addressed him by name, 
cracked cheery jokes, inquired solicitously after his family 
and colleagues, but with equal good humour advised him 
not to leave his seat until the terminus. Then with a gay 
but menacing wave of his hand, Mick descended at the next 
stop. After a raid on one of his offices he walked through 
the back door and joined the crowd outside. He hailed 
a passing side-car and drove away. “ They are looking 
for Mick again, sir,” said the unsuspecting jarvey. “ Yes, 
they would, God blast them,” said Collins, highly amused. 
But he enjoyed most such an incident as the military raid 
on another office while he was writing in an upstairs room. 
He looked through the windows and saw the place sur- 
rounded. A Tommy entered the room. Mick swore at 
him with the utmost truculence of which he was capable 
and then broke into an appalling tornado of oaths at the 
expense of the damned Sinn Feiners downstairs who were 
always upsetting his business. When the Tommy 
reported all this casually below, adding a description of 
Collins, a furious G-man recognised Mick and dashed 
upstairs to find an empty room and an open skylight. 
Collins on this occasion had a double escape from the 
Tommies, for he had first looked through a window with 
a rope in his hand, contemplating a drop from the window ; 
but a Tommy on guard had failed to give the alarm, so 
Mick dashed over the roofs. 

In the chronicle of Sion of these days with its raids and 
alarms and deepening struggle, another name loomed as 
large as that of Collins ; de Valera. All the romance of 
Easter Week clung round his name, and Ireland was 
inclined to anticipate Mr. Lloyd George’s famous judg- 
ment: “ Thank God there is no one like him. He is 
unique.” Ireland was not then in the mood to echo 
inept jokes about Spanish leaders of the Irish people, 
remembering Mangan and innumerable Gaelic poets 



Remembering Sion 

before him had sung that Spanish ale would give us hope, 
while an ancient prophecy had it that a Spaniard would 
free Ireland. There was all the setting of understanding 
and romance even before Mr. de Valera had made his 
celebrated declaration : “ I was reared in a labourer’s 
cottage here in Ireland. I have not lived solely among 
the intellectuals. The first fifteen years of my life that 
formed my character were lived among die Irish people 
down in Limerick ,• therefore I know what I am talking 
about; and whenever I wanted to know what the Irish 
people wanted I had only to examine my own heart and 
it told me straight off wdiat the Irish people wanted.” At 
a later stage the wits of Sion called for a glass window into 
de Valera’s heart so that all the world might share his 
vision. His figure had been a legendary one during 
Easter Week for his defence of Boland’s Mill, and after 
stormy jail strikes Dublin had seen him arrive at Westland 
Row Station heading the released prisoners from penal 
servitude. In a night he became the leader of the move- 
ment, an enigma, a Don Quixote with the accents of 
Thomas Aquinas, pondering amid melodrama, marching 
boldly into an insurrection the wisdom of which he 
doubted, shrugging his shoulders at the firing squad, and 
breaking with the Irish Republican Brotherhood on his 
release, since that was the one thing he had regretted in 
his review of his life in what only a miracle prevented 
from being his condemned cell. Clare elected him by 
thousands. His progress all over Ireland was a triumph, 
and the only man who saw a chink in his armour was John 
Dillon, who gave strict orders to tire Freemans Journal 
that de Valera’s speeches were to be reported verbatim. 
Those who worked with him declared he was a born 
organiser and soldier, cool and brave in a desperate 
situation, a blend of snow and flame, always courteous 
but betimes coming down like a hundred of bricks upon 



Remembering Sion 

blunderers, and as obstinate as any mule upon occasion. 
Stone walls could not mask the romance Ireland linked 
with his name. More and more the populace took him 
to its heart, and among the poems in the shop windows 
I read at an early stage : 

When we were Utile children Johnny Redmond was a fool, 

He hade us to be satisfied with something called Home Rule. 

But we have learned a thing or two since we went to school, 

And we’ll crown de Valera King of Ireland. 

A half-hearted attempt by some Republican doctrinaire 
songster to oust this song with another entitled We'll 
make de Valera our President yet had little success, and 
indeed was beside the point, for de Valera was then 
President. 

That de Valera alone survived of the Easter Week 
leaders undoubtedly not only influenced Ireland pro- 
foundly but influenced himself. In Richmond Barracks 
awaiting death he candidly avowed that though he was 
ready to fight, he was glad he had not to vote for or 
against the Rising. He stated the same opinion in public 
subsequently. On a later occasion when he threw all his 
influence against a decision of the Irish Volunteers which 
would have led to serious loss of life in Dublin, one who 
was then a member of the Volunteer Executive told me 
de Valera used all his eloquence to gain his point. To 
reverse this decision meant the exercise of considerable 
courage, for the decision had been publicly announced 
beforehand, and there was much talk about the collapse 
of the Repeal Movement after O’Connell had abandoned 
his proclaimed meeting at Clontarf. De Valera won and 
Dublin was saved from a shambles in which many citizens 
might have perished. But as he marshalled the pros he 
noted the cons with the warning : “ Remember I was 
opposed to the 1916 Rising.” 

240 



Remembering Sion 

Only twice did I ever meet de Valera personally, and 
when I think of him there is always a picture of a dark, 
charming and serious face bent over a paper with a pencil 
in his hand wliile he searches for a better word in the paper 
before him. Once Collins heard that I wanted an article 
from de Valera after the escape from Lincoln Prison. He 
sent me a cordial message that there would he no difficulty 
about that and to come and see him. He scribbled an 
introduction to de Valera on a visiting card and I went 
down to Greystones and waited until de Valera came in 
from a walk by tlie waves. De Valera struck me as 
courteous and magnetic and often since while wading 
through the oceans of scurrility which have been hurled 
against him I have felt that this was an historic occasion 
if de Valera’s enemies are to be believed, for they all deny 
him any sense of humour, and de Valera on this occasion 
certainly had a sense of humour, rather grim to be sure, 
but honest humour. The article was for an English 
paper, and de Valera was lingering conscientiously over 
his phrases. Mr. Shortt, then Chief Secretary for Ireland, 
had kidnapped Mm on the '' German plot charge. He 
was asking what the world would think were he to kidnap 
Mr. Shortt on some vague and unprovable charge. He 
hesitated to find his example. Conniving at his escape 
from Lincoln? No, Adultery? No. Too earthy, 
perhaps offensive. Then he laughed as he found his 
example; ‘‘Supposing I were to accuse Mr. Shortt of 
dealings with the Devil.” Yes. That was it. De 
Valera’s pencil fell with decision. Then his eyes lighted 
with fun and he said; “ That example should perhaps 
appeal to the English more, for though they do know that 
adultery exists, they are not quite so sure about the Devil ! ” 
De Valera decided to look over his article before handing 
it over, and I must confess I had my doubts whether de 
Valera would beat his enemies at this time, for I had heard 
o 241 



Remembering Sion 

him say in public that he had no time to hand out neatly 
typewritten statements in advance to the Press if the 
Press did not care to report his speeches verbatim. 

Two days later I met Collins, who asked sharply: 

Did you get that article from Dev . } I told him de 
Valera was weighing a paragraph and was naturally 
cautious about anything he wrote. Collins scowled his 
famous scowl and hit the table a resounding thwack: 

Keep after him! I never knew such a bloody man! 
He turned back to the pile of papers before him muttering 
in irritation to himself. And there, had I but known, was 
the clash of personality and outlook which afterwards 
shook Ireland to the foundations, and I felt very much as 
a large part of Ireland has felt since : a glow of affection 
when one thinks of Collins; a certain puzzled respect 
when one considers de Valera. 

During the time I knew Collins in his periodical use of 
his office in Cullenswood House I still continued the 
foolish habit of keeping a diary, as a record of opinions, 
prejudices and events. Aided by my memory some 
pages of this precious document throw some light on 
the Dublin of the time. Here are some entries: 

Sunday^ June lo, 1917: 

After midnight. Just returned from the Abbey where 
I saw Frank Fay and Fred O^Donovan in The Jackdaw^ 
and that curious play, The Crusaders. The Betesford 
Place meeting has been proclaimed, a poster to every 
yard of wall, hoarding and public building. Said it 
wonh be held. Lef s sleep on it. Later : Sleep on it, 
egad ! Things have changed here since O’Connell and 
his generation. Early this morning it was expected the 
meeting would proceed. Went over to Church Street 
with a message to Father Albert. He thanked me for 
bringing it, and brooded in his brown habit over the 
242 



Rememhering Sion 

tension in the city, disquietude in his fine dark eyes. He 
wondered would the meeting be held and hoped there 
would be no violent attempt on the police. He talked 
to me earnestly about the question involved and explained 
his thoughts that though the Volunteers had their methods, 
and free speech must be upheld, there were many methods 
of upholding it. His dark eyes shone, his noble, tapering 
beard seemed alive, and an eloquence crept into his voice: 
he would try everything : letters to papers, thousands of 
post cards to likely quarters, he would write to Lloyd 
George, yes, he would even write to Lloyd George, it 
gave away no case to point out right and wrong to Lloyd 
George, he would discharge thousands of post cards at 
Lloycl George and who could deny that post cards 
directed to that quarter might be as effective as many 
bricks at policemen .i' The shadow of the 1916 executions 
seemed to hang over Church Street. These brown- 
habited Capuchins had attended the last hour of Pearse 
and his comrades. Richmond Barracks flashed back into 
my memory as I left Father Albert. A line of weary and 
defiant men marching round a corner, a man’s teeth 
chattering with fright as he mutters : “ They’ll shoot us 
when we round that bend ! Can’t you hear the shots ^ ” 
And a laugh of pity fi om Eamonn Bulfin beside me : “Poor 
devil, he’s scared ! ” Lonely rooms with stinlcing buckets 
after the pounching detectives have gone out for the tenth 
time. The door opens and two brown-habited Capuchins 
with their great beards wave their hands with an honest 
smile: “Cheer up, men!” Smiling they pass out of 
sight and move calmly from room to room. Down to 
O’Connell Street with this old picture in my dioughts. 
Arrived late for the meeting. Police cordons held all 
approaches. Great excitement. Hear the news : crowds 
gathered in Beresford Place as Count Plunkett and Cathal 
Brugha arrived on a side-car, spoke a few words in 

24^ 



Remembering Sion 

defiance of the Proclamation and were duly arrested. No 
attempt at rescue, but an angry young man in the crowd 
had words with Inspector Mills and turned in a fury and 
fractured the Inspector’s skull with a blow of a hurley. 
He throws down liis hurley and darts into the crowd 
pursued by detectives. His face is pale and his eyes 
haunted. A detective closes in on him. He turns and 
draws a revolver, covering the detective with menace in 
his haunted eyes. The detective turns white, and with 
a curse the young man is lost to view. A scrimmage 
between the police and people follows. Mills lies on the 
ground unconscious. A woman in the Cumann na mBan 
uniform kneels beside him and bandages the Inspector’s 
head : her brother-in-law, Eamonn Ceannt was executed in 
1916. Stones fly and window-panes clatter on the pave- 
ment. Panic spreads through the streets. The children yell 
at the police : ‘ ‘ Who murdered MacDonagh ” All round 
the city crowds lowered and muttered and shadows crept 
up from the slums. With clanging bell the Fire Brigade 
Ambulance dashes away with a savage yell behind it. By 
nine-tliirty the streets are clear. Walk back to Cullens- 
wood and call in to fulfil an invitation the Alph has sent 
me. (Alfred MacGloughlin, Pearse’s nephew.) The Alph 
is as pale and argumentative as ever. I spout pacifism, but 
the Alph will have none of it. We grow abusive until 
Fernando arrives with two jokes and a revolver he hugs 
like a bride. Fernando would make peace but we unite 
against him and attack the I.R.A. for all we are worth. 
The Alph drinks cocoa and curses England and Sinn Fein 
up and down. Fernando strums the piano and informs 
us Mills was a whoreson anyway and the hopes of the 
populace would be disappointed, for Mills was still alive, 
although the populace had cheered the departure of the 
ambulance containing the inert form of the said Mills. 
We refuse to believe it, but Fernando, with all respect for 
244 



Remembering Sion 

our humane sentiments, tells us we are living in the moon. 
He tells us about his experiences at Easter and regrets he 
was under a captain who bungled everything and sent 
them all home half-way through the week, and the women 
are pursuing his poor captain ever since and himself. He 
smiles bitterly at me : all very well to talk, you were in 
the Post Office and had some satisfaction out of the racket, 
what I hadn’t killed any one, well what bloody right had 
I to have an opinion about anything, old cods all over 
Dublin talking about danger of premature insurrections, 
keep on going until the bloody Castle is on its beam ends. 
Alph defies Fernando to prove Mills was any worse than 
the rest. Furious argument about 1913, but Alph tells 
Fernando that he knows all about propaganda. Back to 
Cullenswood, leaving the Alph swearing by Tolstoy and 
upholding peaceful methods with the utmost ferocity, 
while Fernando tauntingly reads a speech of Devlin to 
Alph. Wee Joe is talking about “ bloody gambles for 
impossible ideals.” Hear Mills is dead. Hope he really 
was an obnoxious character. “Whereas” on all the walls. 
The Irish blood is up for all the Competent Military 
Authorities and Officers Commanding. Don’t regret it 
when I remember the recruiting rants. Dangerous to 
advise the Irish to fight, still murdering policemen. Snap 
at a remark that Mills was a bad egg anyway : tell us 
something original. Mrs. Pearse appears at the door of 
the room. She calls me. Her face is grave and pained. 
Deep distress in her grey-blue eyes. Horror. Sadness. 
A light falls on the medallion of her sons on her black 
dress. Upstairs she goes and points to a bedroom: “ He 
is in there. The man who killed Mills. I can’t give him 

up or send him away. Mrs, sent him along to me,” 

She shakes her head again and shrugs her shoulders ; war 
is one thing but this is murder. Unforgettable tone and 
look. She goes down the stairs and I enter the room. 

245 



Remembering Sion 

On the bed young O’Dwyer moans and tosses. I know 
him slightly. A light breaks on me as he tells me his 
story after I have persuaded him to give up his revolver. 
Impulse, not murder. Dark legacy of Nineteen Thirteen 
and drab rooms and baton charges in O’Connell Street. 
Unheedingly he has lashed out when Mills had shoved 
him and told him to run home to mother. A swing of 
his hurley in rage and Mills falls. There is madness in 
his eyes. Fie sees Mills again and again with his blood- 
soaked head and his eyes haunt him. He groans and 
moans and relives the scene. He falls asleep. Finnbarr 
comes in later and I talk to him: he curses O’Dwyer for 
a hothead and says Mick will see to it. Mills was a harm- 
less and kindly man doing his job. For a week O’Dwyer 
is restless and haunted. In his dreams he moans and 
mutters. Walk him up and down and talk off his unrest. 
At last Mick sends a sailor-man and we all walk to the 
North Wall; and with eyes still horror-shaded O’Dwyer 
vanishes to America, the quiet humorous sailor-man well 
able to manage him and the passage. On all the walls 
bills howl for the murderer of Mills, offering a hundred 
pounds as the point of the stilted jargon. One morning 
Mrs. Pearse cries out in dismay: A man has been 
arrested and charged with the murder. A trick some 
say. Others, tliat the Castle is not particular so long as 
it gets some one. Any Volunteer will do. The Crown 
case is flimsy. What of that } Mrs. Pearse says she will 
talk to Father Albert. Whether she does or not I never 
know for certain. Or whether he has dropped a whisper 
or a hint or sent a post card somewhere, but suddenly the 
Crown drops the case and the innocent man is discharged. 
A year later a visitor from America tells me O’Dwyer is 
still there, haunted and restless, and a psycho-analyist 
there had guessed his secret, which left so deep a mark 
on his mind and character. Sometimes in the Cafe Cairo 
246 



Remembering Sion 

in the evenings as I talk to Andrew, who vows we are all 
mad and Dominion Home Rule is the party of to-morrow 
and lends me Penguin Island and The Story-Teller s 
Holiday as an antidote for the froth of the times, I hear 
respectable citizens denouncing the mad young man who 
tried to cut our Gordian knot with a hurley. “ Murder ! ” 
they splutter. A white face and horror-laden eyes rise 
before me. Inside the talk of the Cafe Cairo is as of old 
with the fumes of smoke and chess-boards out and the glow 
of Grafton Street and the black and sable posters of the 
Abbey calling across the quays. In nooks and at tables 
the wit and hope and despair and gossip of Dublin. 

Sunday, June 17, 1917: 

Whisper after whisper through Cullenswood House 
that the prisoners are returning. Rumour after rumour 
of amnesty for the men in Lewes and Dartmoor. A picnic 
in Rathfarnham near the Hell-Fire Club. Hills blue 
and purple, blunted, lofty with valleys below, odd white 
cottages a-gleam, a sun burning. A tame picnic for all 
the new nests of hills framing themselves suddenly against 
the clouds. Want to investigate the rumours. Back to 
city. Flope to finish some notes but have only written 
three lines when visitors and interruptions and more 
visitors begin. Mrs. Pearse hears for certain the prisoners 
are coming to Westland Row or North Wall at 4.30 by 
special boat. Half a dozen messages to this effect. Depart 
for North Wall at 3.45. Motors tearing along the quiet 
roads. Crowds after crowds gathering. Forests of tri- 
colours. Over the roads to Westland Row. Lines of 
men waiting for five hours with a depressing growler 
beside me. A wave sweeps past the police into Westland 
Row. The tricolour waves in the faces of the police and 
troops. Over platforms and a cheer for every train. At 
nine the prisoners came. Quietly Eoin MacNeill walked 

247 



Rememharing Sion 

down the platform shorn of his auburn beard. With an 
Irish phrase he vanishes into the crowds. More and more 
crowds overflowed the streets cheering the brakes with the 
prisoners as they drove away. Above a sea of faces 
gleamed the dark profile of de Valera. Back to Cullens- 
wood to meet Sla and Hurricane Hal. Read an English 
newspaper to them both: The released leaders are 

moderating influences capable of giving excellent advice 
to their wilder followers."'^ They tell me to go to Hell. 
Tales of the prisons; the warder who had known Tom 
Clarke and described him under his prison name of Wilson 
as a bad man for he never would keep the rules ; farewell 
of one of the prisoners to this same warder in emphatic 
terms telling him all he had stored up, exit of warder and 
entrance of another with words : Shake ! give ten years 
of my life to tell that officious swine what you have just 
told him ; stormy jail strikes with tunnelled walls, 
shattered windows and sagging doors ; whispers of con- 
victs: “Are you here for doing your old one in.^"’; 
warders trying to soothe prisoners when leaders are re- 
moved to another jail that they have gone to the company 
of professional gentlemen like themselves, but it is learned 
the professional gentlemen in question have all committed 
violent and unmentionable deeds. A hooley in honour 
of Sla and Hurricane Hal. They laugh as they remember 
the prisoners sang as they entered the harbour : 

We love tkemyety we canh forget 

The Felons of our land* 

August lO, 1917. 

The sea beyond Skerries with an island and Martello 
Tower beyond. A mile in length this island with corn 
and stones and grass on its soil. Beyond the sea, cloud 
banks and the coast line. Rats and ghosts are the only 
inhabitants. Twenty minutes during the day Skerries 
248 



Rememhering Sion 

stretching behind and the island are one. Then the great 
sea rushes in. On holiday here. The news reaches us 
that Mrs. Thomas MacDonagh has been drowned between 
the island and the mainland. Another funeral with the 
marching men in the city. At the table some one looks up 
and says : “ She’s with him now.” Across the road from 
Cullenswood House I had talked to her only a month 
before and she had thanked me for an article about 
Thomas which she said brought out that he was not all 
Celtic gloom, a judgment that angered her. From a 
memory of her sad face with the auburn hair fringing it, 
I thought of Thomas often striding through the iron gate 
of Cullenswood with his pile of books and his quick words. 
Met him there once just before Easter week and told him 
a minor poet in his class at the University was telling 
every one there would be a revolution soon because 
MacDonagh had started wearing putties. MacDonagh 
smiled and said he had heard Sir Mathew Natlian, Under- 
secretary up in the Castle thought the same. Again 
Thomas smiled and said they would light a fire that 
nothing would withstand and mock-heroically declaimed : 

The heady tides of battle run, 

0 white swords / to the mark; 

Joy of the Fighter in the Sun 
Whose arrows slay the Dark. 

Next day he wore putties no longer and proceeded to 
address his students in lyrical terms about Jane Austen. 
“ There’s no one like Jane, lads ! ” he said with deep 
affection. Some of his students pressed him about this 
time for details of the proposed revolution die minor poet 
had announced but Thomas denied all knowledge of its 
date and, when his students pressed him as to what would 
happen if his revolution failed, he answered with a melo- 
dramatic hand-wave : “ Other Romans will arise, heedless 
of a soldier’s name ! ” 

249 



Remembering Sion 

November i, 1917. 

The Sinn Fein Convention. Arthur Griffith handing 
over his mantle and crown to de Valera with a bouquet 
amidst the cheers of seventeen hundred delegates. Pro- 
ceedings marked by deliberation, freedom of discussion 
and comparative absence of eloquence, but there was a 
tremendous flood of resolutions and the beard of Darrell 
Figgis waved over his innumerable remarks and points 
of order. He sat with folded arms trying to look like 
Parnell. Tlie power in the Convention was evidently 
de Valera although what his speech meant, and what his 
policy is, Heaven alone knows. Madame de Marcievicz 
attacked Eoin MacNeill and accused him of signing the 
Easter week Proclamation; her attack was unpopular, 
several released Lewes men growling beside me: '‘Why 
doesn^’t she leave him alone. He never pretended to be 
a revolutionary.” De Valera rises and speaks with great 
emphasis : as one of the few living men who know any- 
thing about the matter, MacNeill did not sign the Pro- 
clamation. Great cheering and Madame looks puzzled 
and subsides. A gong boomed every eight minutes to 
quell orators. Had to endure outburst of oratory during 
the last ten minutes when a brazen-throated, purple- 
visaged bald veteran with a voice like a thunderstorm 
defied the gong and took off the roof with a panegyric 
of de Valera. 

March 6, 1918. 

Death of Redmond. Difficult for me to write about 
him. Some political enthusiasts at public bodies indulge 
in a despicable manoeuvre of ignoring his death. But 
second thoughts were best and these peopleware squelched. 
In a hundred years perhaps Redmond will stand higher than 
some of these wretched little political gnats buzzing round 
his corpse. He had no appeal for youth. For many of us 



Remembering Sion 

he was dead in X914 and dead enough in The Old 

Party barked at us and we went elsewhere. But behind 
Redmond rose the shade of Parnell, and remembering 
Pearse’s praise of Redmond in that hour I was able to 
write about him. Strange how little we know of the past 
histoiy of the last thirty or forty years. 

j 4 pril 1918 . 

Conscription! Here*s a pretty kettle of fish! The 
Union sacrS (somewhat shaky as far as union goes Fll 
admit but sacre enough in all conscience with their Lord- 
ships in charge) is in full force; Dillon cheered through 
the streets of Dublin and my friend Bob, Pro-Ally and 
Constitutionalist of Constitutionalists dancing a jig with 
rage on the pavement as he prays: "'Please God the 
Germans will be bombarding Dover before the scoundrels 
can lay a finger on one of us. Make your peace with God, 
young fellows, and get one at least of those who come to 
fetch you.^^ Feeling at white heat. Dublin has been lit 
with an electric resentment. Insurrection permeates the 
atmosphere. Not since 1916 has there been such feeling 
abroad. Labour Day comes and there are no trains, trams, 
bread, papers, no shops open. The very clouds scarcely 
moved. Moral or physical means of resistance ? All over 
the city groups discuss it. The Bishops have said all 
means consonant with the law of God. One Bishop is 
credited with the witty remark that when de Valera went 
down to meet the assembled Hierarchy it was as the 
descent of the Holy Ghost upon them. My old complex 
gnaws at my brain: peace or war. FinnlDarr smiles at 
me. He tells me that if conscription is enforced Ireland 
will be one heap of bloody ditches and corpse-strewn 
fields. Blow for blow. . . . Petrol on the harvest. He 
says that passive resistance is an illusion. In all the jail 
strikes it was the will of a few men who kept the hunger 

251 



Rememhering Sion 

strikes going, and even then there was a danger of 
collapse- Ruthless Warfare: the title flares from a copy 
of the secret LR.A. organ on the table. The Volunteers 
laugh at this idea of passive resistance and solemn signing 
of protests and think now that a cartridge in a rifle magazine 
is the chief force in this sad world. The hard-eyed young 
men in the black hats hug their revolvers and talk like the 
Morning Post. “ Don’t argue, but shoot!” says tliis 
vigorous and amiable organ about us, and the young men 
hug their revolvers and applaud. Colthursr will swing 
from a lamp iron somewhere in the Strand long before the 
Irish nation in its present mood reads Sheeny-SkefHngton’s 
Open Letter to Thomas MacDonagh with its dream of a 
band of men and women united by a spirit of idealism and 
love of the commonwealth, prepared to spend their lives 
in its service but laying down as an axiom they will not 
shed the blood of their neighbours. Finnbarr reads an 
old copy of this document as he oils his revolver. He 
smiles and says Lloyd George ought to have a copy. Yet 
there is a resemblance between the young men with the 
black hats and SkefEngton in their spirit : 

Let sword cross sword or thought meet thought^ 

One fire of battle thrills them both. 

Deliverance only can he wrought 

By warfare without stay or sloth. . . . 

The physical force ideal represents the only one the 
majority of the Volunteers have reached. Quench that 
flame, and we will have the politicians again. A nice 
question, says Finnbarr, putting his revolver away. He 
knew a Volunteer in Frongoch who had read all the works 
of Tolstoy and shut them up, they preyed on his mind so. 
Otherwise he would have stopped drilling and shooting. 
All right for Tolstoy when he had fought his wars. All 
right for Remain Rolland polishing his phrase above the 
battle. But we couldn’t all be Tolstoys or Remain 
252 



Remembering Sion 

Rollands. Quote A. E. to him. Well, he says, if we all 
had pens like A. E. there might be some use in arguing 
the question. He tells me a funny story of two listening 
to a lecture of A. E. lately. Startled by A. E.’s scriptural 
phrases the first auditor says : “ This man is a terrible 
Christian.” “ Pooh ! ” says the second, “ don’t you 
believe it ! There is no God and Russel is his Prophet ! ” 

May 12, 1918. 

A. E. writes an amazing letter warning the British 
Government against the dangers of enforcing conscrip- 
tion. It has the old eloquence of Nineteen Thirteen. 

A great man, sitting in his office in Merrion Square with 
the kettle on the hob and stacks of blue books round him. 
Ask him a question and he’ll plunge into a stack and hand 
it to you with ten pearly words. Watched out for the 
bomb in my pockets any time I ever met him. Most un- 
just, God knows when I stopped up half the night reading 
his meditation upon the State of Ireland, its character and 
future, The National Being. They call him the Hairy 
Fairy when they have nothing better to do, but he can 
see visions all right. Like the one we hear in the salons 
of the Giant traversing Ireland beating his drum and 
followed by smoke, tumult and darkness and then light 
streaming from all the hills of Eire. He wrote that vision 
down in a letter to my father just after 1916 I remember. 
There will be drums all right soon, thanks to Merlin and 
the lads ! 

May 25, 1918. 

The “ German Plot ” and a Proclamation from Lord 
French and a swoop on all the leaders of Sinn F ein. Mick 
has escaped. Plot generally regarded as not so good as it 
might have been made with the help of the /rish Times 
Handbook of 1916 and an honest-to-goodness G-man’s 

253 



Rememhering Sion 

suspicions. Funny stories about Lord French and his 
barber : “ And what do the people think of my Proclama- 
tion.^” “To tell you the truth, my Lord, they don’t 
think much will come of it.” “ By God, they shall find 
their mistake ! ” Two days later, same question and same 
answer and Lord French says: “ Do you know I begin 
to think the people are not so far wrong ! ” All the Jew- 
men in Dublin, who have come over since the war, sporting 
the tricolour. The South Circular Road loves them not. 

November ii, 1918. 

And where are the snows of yester year.? The war 
ends with a blaze of Union Jacks down Grafton Street 
and all the imported Jewmen waving red, white and blue 
in place of green, white and orange; and the Sinn Fein 
Headc[uarters in Harcourt Street are attacked by a mob of 
soldiers and supporters. Petrol is splashed on the doors. 
A young man kneels in the middle of the street and fires 
into the attackers. Small riot follows. 

And almost before the shadow of the Great War passed 
the shadow of the Little War fell over Ireland. The Union 
Jacks vanished from Grafton Street, the country lay under 
military Proclamation with the popular organisations 
banned as illegal, the leaders of Sinn Fein were in jail — 
and in one night the party which Parnell had gathered was 
swept away. Dail Eireann and Michael Collins’s Invisible 
Army became the real rulers of Ireland. But as yet the 
Little War was a phrase. An ambush down in Tipperary 
at Soloheadbeg occupied a few lines in the newspapers. 
Two policemen were killed. “ Cold-blooded murder,” 
said some. Others asked why the British Army couldn’t 
protect the semi-armed constabulary if they must flaunt 
loads of gelignite round the countryside. There was a 
whisper in Dublin that the organisers of the ambush had 
acted on their own and had been hauled over the coals 
254 



Remembering Sion 

by the leaders of the Irish Volunteers, The incident 
passed out of the public mind for shots were strange sounds 
in Ireland then. The dark-eyed G-men pounced and 
headed the raiding parties. As the new year dawned a 
small Dail sat in public session in the Dublin Mansion 
House and issued a Declaration of Independence. De 
Valera escaped from prison and the newsboys shouted the 
news down Grafton Street. 

I sat in the Cafe Cairo with my friend Andrew and we 
discussed the situation. “ We have one great hope,” said 
Andrew : That Ally that never failed us yet : the 

British Government. When our car runs short of petrol 
the British Government will tank us up all right/^ Rory 
O’Connor, dark-visaged with sombre glowing eyes, plays 
chess with Frank Gallagher at a neighbouring table. 
‘‘ O’Connor has a spine of steel,” says Andrew. “ He’s 
a good man, and fundamentally sincere.” And I re- 
member what the young man from the Censor’s office, 
who called into 55 South Circular Road where I now 
live with Oblomov, has said : We blue-pencil Gallagher 
often down in our show. But by God ! Can’t he write ! ” 
Soon I had more ample opportunities of approving 
Andrew’s prescience for I, from now on, saw Sion from 
a new angle. 


255 



FIFTEEN 


I N the Freeman s Journal I discovered a very fine 
sentinel tower to watch the epic of Sion with many 
pathways into the more sombre scenes of that epic. 
From the end of 1919 to the spring of 1922 I was on 
the reporting and sub-editorial staffs of that paper — 
seeing thus all parts of Ireland from a new angle, shedding 
a proneness to rhetoric, learning to put the point on 
top ” and working betimes twelve and fifteen hours a 
day. I was guided by only one thought in those years : 
to see out the struggle begun long before despite the 
questionings which gnawed at my mind in quiet moments. 
In The Invisible Army long afterwards I tried to recall 
my outlook and attitude in the composite character of 
Harding, although some kind fate spared me the later 
ordeals of that unhappy fellow- 

The Freemaris Journal had then passed into the hands 
of Mr, Martin Fitzgerald and was no longer the semi- 
official organ of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Founded 
by Dr. Lucas in the days of Grattan’s Parliament it was 
the oldest paper in Great Britain or Ireland until it 
ceased publication in 1924. Its files covered many thril- 
ling phases of Irish history. It had had for its owners 
and associates honourable men as well as some of the 
most execrable of the vermin that crawled over the face 
of Dublin in the days of Pitt. It had been the organ of 
the Irish Party in that party’s glory and decadence alike. 
It had chronicled Grattan and O'Connell and the Land 
War and the rise and fall of Parnell. When its files were 
burned in the Easter insurrection many a gay and sorrow- 
256 



Remembering Sion 

ful episode in the political and social history of the capital 
floated in fiery ashes to undeserved oblivion, and by an 
irony of history the insurgents melted the type which 
had for a generation hammered all lovers of sword and 
pike and gun. Even the old Freeman office, beside the 
burning Post Office, was caught by the new flame which 
so soon caught Ireland; but from its ashes a Phoenix rose 
and flew down O'Connell Street, over the fine bridge, 
and took up its abode in Townsend Street, with one eye 
on Trinity College and the other on the Central Police 
Station. This new Phcenix's nest is a tumbled, empty 
and desolate ruin to-day, but before the last Phoenix 
died for ever the Freeman chronicled the most exciting 
history that had ever filled its columns. Not least ex- 
citing was its own final phase : bombs, fires, raids, arrest 
of its editor and proprietor; a three-year battle with 
Dublin Castle; its destruction with sledge-hammers by 
Rory O'Connor's raiders, slowly sinking fortunes in the 
quieter days of the Free State, and final absorption in its 
most formidable rival, the Irish Independent, 

All the good and bad in the post-insurrection Freeman 
centred round its proprietor. Mr. Martin Fitzgerald was 
in disposition and vocabulary very like Fielding’s Squire 
Western with all the good and bad qualities of that hard- 
swearing, honest-hearted man. Like the Squire he was 
a sportsman and an impetuous and courageous one, but, 
like the Squire, he could be harsh to his beloved child, and 
certainly the Freeman was a beloved child of Martin’s. 
The first time I met him was the evening of an attempt 
on Lord French's life outside Dublin. It had been an 
exciting day. William Norman Ewer of the Daily Herald 
had asked me to come to the Cafe Cairo to recover from 
a three days' controversy he had been conducting with 
Madame de Marcievicz over the lunch table in a restaurant 
attached to Liberty Hall. Madame had attacked the 
R 257 



Remcmheritig Sion 

Daily Herald as a monarchist sheet because it had men- 
tioned the Prince of Wales and King George in the news 
columns, and sailed into the paper for not telling its 
readers to tear up railway lines and plant the Red Flag- 
over the House of Commons, Ewer knit his brows until 
Madame proceeded to denounce several famous British 
pacifists and Labour leaders as hypocrites and double 
dealers. Whereupon to the joy of the whole restaurant 
Ewer opened fire upon Madame and told her what he 
thought of herself and her arguments with great force 
and candour and finally silenced her with his vehemence. 
This delighted Madame, who arrived the two following- 
days in the hopes of converting so forceful and fiery a 
pacifist. The argument had somewhat exhausted Ewer 
so he asked me if I knew of a nice peaceful Cafe where he 
could smoke his pipe in safety from Madame de Mar- 
cievicz for a day or so until he had thought of some 
argument which would silence her for ever. It had been 
a great battle between Madame and Ewer and he was 
being invested with a halo all unknown to himself as the 
only man who had ever laid out the Countess in argu- 
ment. At first in the Cafe Cairo Ewer thought he had 
found his peaceful haven. I introduced him to the 
greatest liar in Ireland and a number of people who had 
no desire to argue with him and he smoked his pipe so 
much at peace that he began to miss the fierce rhetoric 
and persistence of Madame. But there was a sudden 
shrieking of newsboys in the street outside: ‘'Stop 
Press 1 Stop Press!” A newsboy stopped beside the 
table and Ewer was soon deep in a prose poem describing 
how bombs and bullets had whizzed and burst and 
spluttered round the Viceregal car at Ashetown that very 
morning. Ewer asked me if I could find out what the 
populace were thinking about the attack and said he would 
be in the Freeman office later, and went out of sight very 
258 



Remembering Sion 

stirred by the prose poem he had just read and which he 
said revealed a hidden desire on the part of the writer to 
be a war correspondent There was little news in the 
paper except that two bombs had been thrown at Lord 
French, who had escaped while one of his attackers had 
been shot dead. But all I could hear the populace saying 
was expressed in the words of an old man in the middle 
of a group devouring a newspaper, and the old man 
exclaiming eagerly : “ And did the lads miss him? The 
old ruffian, they’ll get him yet ! Not that I approve of this 
indiscriminate picking off of unfortunate bobbies. For 
the bobbies and ourselves are all pups of the same litter. 
But that old ruffian ! ” Before I went round to the Free- 
man I had heard the name of the dead attacker, Martin 
Savage, who worked in a Dublin public-house, a quiet 
young man, and a reporter who had come back from the 
scene of the attack told me he had seen Martin Savage’s 
body huddled up under some sacking and the only touch 
of humanity in the drab and grim room was a big police- 
man calling on the Lord to have mercy on the soul of the 
poor young lad under the coarse sacldng. Lord French 
had owed his life to the train being two minutes late and 
that he had travelled in the first car instead of the second. 

I went up the old wooden stairs in Townsend Street 
opposite the Central Police Station and in one of the 
rooms off one of the many corridors a mellow and im- 
patient company of journalists were sitting, all special 
correspondents and the honoured guests of Martin 
Fitzgerald, who was a whisky refiner among other things. 
His most noted brand was called Acushla,” and many 
hospitable gallons of the same Martin poured out for die 
knights of the pen from afar when he became proprietor 
of the Freeman, Into the room this very night waltzed 
Martin and roared out a randy tale at his guests, nothing 
much of a tale either for bawdiness or matter but roared 

2y9 



Remembering Sion 

out with such engaging high spirits that the worried faces 
of the journalists cleared and they pressed Martin for the 
latest news, which Martin soon assured them, with ex- 
pressions that would have made the mouth of Rabelais 
and Fielding water, amounted to nothing. He waltzed 
through the door again singing a hunting catch. He was 
a red-faced man with an eye like some wounded bird in 
his more reposeful moods. Though his language 
belonged to the Elizabethans in his angry and convivial 
moods, and was one of the wonders of Dublin, Martin 
was a perfect gentleman in the presence of ladies — prim 
and courtly and most careful in his speech, a blend of a 
governess and knight. He had the deserved reputation 
of being a most sporting individual and a model em- 
ployer. What gave him colour was his sudden out- 
bursts. When he took over the Freeman his rage was 
turned against the Castle, and he told his staff to go ahead 
and let the Castle know what he thought. 

Gone were the days when long speeches of stately 
rhetoric filled the Freeman, Double column leaders 
howled defiance at the Castle and huge black posters 
mocked and gleamed daily. Gay verse pricked the high- 
est on Cork Hill while the Viceroy himself was told to go 
away at any rate. One day Darrell Figgis met Martin in 
the street and suggested that even Martin Fitzgerald 
could not say what he liked about such powerful persons 
as Ian McPherson, then one of the rulers of Ireland, but 
Martin roundly told Darrell that he, Martin Fitzgerald, 
proposed to dine on the livers and lights and divers 
portions of Ian McPherson, nay, that his teeth at that very 
moment were sunk deep in various unmentionable 
portions of all the Castle crew, whereupon, with a parting 
sweep of his noble russet beard, Darrell went his way with 
the kindly hope that Mr. Fitzgerald would enjoy that 
delicate repast outside the jail gates as long as he could. 



Remembering Sion 

In due course Martin and the Editor were arrested, jailed 
and heavily fined; but Mai tin in spite of heavy money 
losses kept up his open attack and in glowing words 
defied all the attacks of the raiders who thrice attempted 
to burn the business offices of the Freeman in the small 
hours. The military were beaten flat in their attempts 
to attack the papei. Jail, fines, suppression were all 
countered, and the fierce resentment felt by the military 
rulers of Ireland can be read to this day in General 
Macready’s memoirs, where he gloats over the sub- 
sequent destruction of the Freeman by Rory O'Connor’s 
Irregulars, and preserves for posterity the true sendments 
of the Dublin Castle terrorists, whacked to a standstill 
by a few hundred gunmen, a nation that hated them, and 
a handful of journalists who told the world the truth of 
the regime that turned the stomach of General Macready 
himself. 

Before he died in March 1927 Mardn Fitzgerald became 
a Free State Senator and had to sell out his famous paper, 
but he certainly lived before he died. He was a very 
kindly but a somewhat suspicious man. He never 
suffered fools gladly, and when provoked was capable of 
the most amazing indiscretions. He could risk his whole 
fortune to run the Freeman, and his reputation as a busi- 
ness man was of the highest, but he could not handle a 
pen with restraint when irritated. This irritation had 
nothing mean about it but sprang from his depression 
due to his uncertain health. When he took over the 
Freeman he paid several old members of the staff their 
full wages although he knew they were well past their 
worldng days. During the newspaper strike that closed 
down all the Dublin dailies he had a heart-to-heart talk 
with his printers and in the end they cheered him loudly. 
Once when the Freeman was conducting a campaign for 
the release of many political prisoners from Ballykinlar 



Remembering Sion 

Camp, in the last lap before the Treaty, some prisoner 
wrote from a Dublin prison reproaching Martin Fitz- 
gerald for not making greater efforts to give publicity to 
his own case. The writer was a well-known Republican 
propagandist and there was nothing in his letter to cause 
the eruption of wrath his complaint led to in the pro- 
prietor of the Freeman. Martin for some reason resented 
this letter very fiercely and angrily demanded to be 
shown the reply before it was dispatched from the office. 
He was assured the writer had been told off for his im- 
patience and it had been politely conveyed to him that 
the Freeman was doing its best to secure the release of 
all internees and such individual complaints were not 
helpful. Martin seized a pen and, with several members 
of the staff on their knees imploring him to let well 
enough alone, added a racy request to the letter inviting 
the complainant to purge his system of wind in one short 
monosyllable no longer common in print since the 
eighteenth century. Martin saw to it that the letter was 
duly posted, and recovered his good humour. The angry 
recipient forwarded the letter to the Freemans rival, the 
Independent, saying that the letter had been handed into 
the cell by a grinning jailer. The horrified editor of the 
Indcpendenf^ixhYishcA. the whole correspondence,including 
enough of Martin’s addendum to satisfy curiosity, along 
with a virtuous note pointing out that the word was one 
of the coarsest in the English language. The delighted 
Dubliners loved Martin none the less for his homely 

advice to “ f 1, and f 1 twice,” but a groan of 

dismay went up inside the Freeman office and many were 
the possible replies from prison suggested by the wits. 
Shortly afterwards Mr. de Valera decided to ask all the 
editors of the Dublin papers to meet him, and Martin 
Fitzgerald attended the conference. He saw the editor of 
the Independent and sent up such a coruscation of epithets 



Rememhering vSion 

that Mr. de Valera had to postpone the conference. This 
squeamishness of the part of Mr. de Valera inspired 
Martin Fitzgerald with a dislike of him which was to have 
a stormy sequel. The worst side of his character was 
aroused by Mr. Ersldne Childers, whom he regarded 
from the first as a Secret Service agent and would hear 
no word in his favour. His subsequent campaign against 
Childers was mean and dishonest in the extreme. 

When Martin Fitzgerald's enmity was aroused he lost 
all sense of proportion and discretion. Only the most 
violent protest from the editor prevented him from 
publishing a portrait of a Dublin milkman who had been 
fined in the Dublin courts. Previously the milkman had 
obtained damages against the paper for an error in a 
report, and Martin was very anxious to show the milk- 
man and his premises in the middle of a very full report 
when eventually he was fined. Quite ignorant of Cathal 
Brugha's character he wanted leading articles attacking 
him as a candlestick maker " who must not be allowed 
to dictate to the Irish people. De Valera to him was 
“ the Dago " and nothing more. When the Treaty 
controversy came Martin wanted to suppress de 
Valera's manifestoes and speeches and dictated leading 
articles violently attacking him. He ordered his car- 
toonist to draw a very bitter cartoon depicting de Valera 
as the puppet of Childers. Eventually the editor had to 
consent to its publication as the only means of securing 
the publication of an important manifesto of de Valera's. 
This campaign was so violent that many of de Valera's 
opponents protested, “ It is a tragedy/' said James 
Winder Good to me, “ that our social system allows 
such a reckless man to be in charge of a daily paper at 
such a time." 

Jimmy Good was one of the most brilliant members 
of the Freeman staff. His death was an irreparable loss 

263 



Remembering Sion 

to Irish journalism. He was an Ulsterman and a Pro- 
testant. He used to tell with great enjoyment his last 
nighi on an Orange paper in Belfast. His Catholic 
friend the liftman was astonished when Good rushed 
into the lift shouting; “To Plell with the Pope. Long 
live the pious and immortal memory of King William 
who saved us all from Popery and wooden shoes ! Down 
with all the Papishes and Hell roast the Fenians.” “ I 
never thought you were that sort of man, Mr. Good ! ” 
cried the liftman. “ Ah,” said Jimmy, “ I am going up 
to join that Fenian rag, the Freeman, in the morning, and 
this is my last chance!” Nothing disturbed Jimmy 
Good, not even when he walked down the stairs into 
Black and Tan or Republican raiders. He would smile 
grimly and make some cynical joke. He could write 
anything at a moment’s notice from a picture show to a 
history of Belfast. When he was a trifle depressed he 
would stroll into the sub-editors’ room to listen to two 
Ulster sub-editors, who belonged to opposite camps, 
telling each other off, and cheer up at once ; “ Ah, that 
reminds me of my boyhood in Belfast.” Or with a half- 
sad, half-humorous expression he would read an account 
of a Belfast riot and say : “ Good enough ! Only twenty 
casualties. We start fighting up there when you Dublin 
blighters start running from the police. I must have a 
week-end and make more looting than I would on the 
Freeman in a year.” Once Good heard a sub-editor 
criticising the extreme business ability of the Superior of 
some religious order and walked out exclaiming : “ Good- 
night, boys, this is no place for a Protestant.” He used 
to enjoy the periodical visit of another leader writer to 
the sub-editors’ room. His colleague had written leaders 
for years, but once in a way his pen would fail him and 
there was only one remedy: a visit to the sub-editors’ 
room to borrow the Morning Post, whereupon the fire 
264 



Rememhering Sion 

and vocabulary of that leader writer were marvellously 
restored. 

Before I joined the Freeman I had known another 
Ulster member of the staff very well^ Mr. Sean Lester, then 
News Editor of the Freeman but afterwards the Free State 
representative at Geneva and subsequently High Commis- 
sioner for Danzig, I had first met him in a small lodge 
near Terenure, where Mr. Bulmer Hobson lived surroun- 
ded by shelves of books and smoked a genial pipe during 
many philosophical and political arguments with friends 
and critics. At that time Lester worked on a Unionist 
paper. He is a Protestant and Unionist by birth but he 
had joined the Sinn Fein party and was regarded with a 
malevolent eye by Dublin Castle, which knew his journal- 
istic ability shaped several Nationalist papers in forms 
not to its liking. Indeed after 1916, in spite of Lester’s 
strong MacNeill attitude during that crisis, some Castle 
busybody tried to get him sacked, until the staunch Tory 
editor, Henry Doig, told the Castle to go to Hell and leave 
his staff alone. 

On the Freeman Lester was a very pleasant and con- 
scientious Chief under which to work, and his younger 
lieutenants owed much to his sympathy and direction 
and unerring instinct for putting the right man on the 
right job. He is a dark-complexioned man, neither too 
tall nor too short, with fine eyes which somehow sum up 
in one glance all his intellect, humour, reserve and capa- 
city for untiring industry. Among his young men on 
the Freeman were Joseph Penrose and myself whom the 
remaining Irish Party lights among the reporters and 
sub-editors regarded as representatives of Sinn Fein. 
Penrose and I, however, were equally at home among the 
policemen, firemen and common folk of Dublin. We 
knew all the pubs and theatres and the Coroner’s Clerk 
and the Lord Mayor as well as the politicians and gun- 

265 



Remembering Sion 

men, although Penrose knew something more than 
myself. He had the trick of staggering the Black and 
Tans when they held him up with indignant questions as 
to whether this was what he had fought for in Flanders 
and Gallipoli in such a regiment and such a battle, all 
minutely recalled from the reminiscences of his old school 
friends and hurled with admirable mimicry at the heads 
of the apologetic Black and Tans. Once under Curfew, 
Penrose got on his dignity and entered the military lorry 
which stopped him without protest, quite forgetting the 
Curfew pass in his pocket, a document issued to all 
journalists. Fie told the Tommy beside him of his work 
on the Press and then denounced the Black and Tans 
with fury, assuring the Tommy the Irish people quite 
understood the difference between the honest soldiers 
pitchforked over into uncongenial tasks, unlike certain 
murderous and ineffable scoundrels with their guinea a 
day. The Tommy cursed these gentlemen even more 
heartily than Penrose and through him returned thanks 
on behalf of the British Army to the discerning Irish 
nation. He next informed his horrified oiRcer that there 
was a journalist on board. The officer with a few sar- 
castic fatherly words ordered out a new lorry to drive 
Penrose home, and at Pentose’s request the lorry stopped 
at the head of his street so as not to alarm his family. 

Penrose and I delighted to draw out another colleague 
of ours on the history of the Irish Parliamentary Party 
and the humours of Irish life, for on these Michael Con- 
way was an authority as well as more sedulous and con- 
vincing in apery and mimicry of the comic in others than 
even Penrose himself. Conway had been an organiser 
for the Redmondite United Irish League and kindred asso- 
ciations. He was well known in the North of Ireland as 
an eloquent and humorous speaker at political meetings, 
for even on the wall of the reporters’ room an old news- 
->d6 



Remembering Sion 

paper cutting depicted him addressing a cheering throng 
of Belfast mill workers. Sometimes Conway laughed 
and shook his head ruefully in front of this picture and 
launched out into side-splitting anecdotes of the old 
days before the triumph of Sinn Fein had finished Con- 
way’s very certain hopes of being an M.P. So perforce 
he had turned to journalism, where he was a speedy 
success, but sometimes as his journey took him through 
the old Ulster scenes, where he had orated of yore, the old 
longing for the platform flamed up. So, swearing the 
colleague with him to secrecy, Conway would disappear 
behind the scenes and then reappear on the platform and 
win thunders of applause for a finished oration from the 
supporters of Mr. Devlin, still strong in the North. 

Once in Cork I introduced Conway to a friend of 
mine who had played a part at many elections for Sinn 
Fein, The two Michaels at first eyed each other with 
hostility and asked the same question : “ Where have we 
met before ? It came out that they had met all over 
one constituency during the 1918 General Election. All 
was explained, for Conway’s hand was vigorously shaken 
with the candid compliment; '' The reason we always 
smashed up your meetings, Conway, was that you were 
much too plausible with your tongue!’* Conway’s 
florid moon of a face could be owl-like in its grave dignity 
or bacchanal in its mirth, jollity and malice. After his 
Freeman days Conway went to Ulster and made a name 
in Nationalist journalism. Death snatched his life’s 
ambition from him at the last : he was rushed to hospital 
and died after an operation on the eve of his election to a 
safe seat in the Northern Parliament. 

But the Freeman staff of those days was so full of 
character that it would need a book longer than the 
present to do it justice : Matt 0 ‘Hara, an authority on 
Parnell, with benevolent walrus head, and fund of anec- 

267 



Rememhering Sion 

dotes, who could rout all the journalists of the world with 
his stubby pencil keeping time to the wreaths from his 
beloved pipe ; Pat Murphy, afterwards famous in London 
journalism, best described in his own phrase, “ nerve of 
a horse’s neck”; Harry Newton Moore, a Canadian 
journalist, who acted as managing editor and shook out 
picturesque phrases for the posters as well as his Army 
Commission in the faces of the military raiders when they 
called ; the veterans, Jack Hill and Jack Hall, who remem- 
bered the Freeman in the days of Parnell’s power ; and 
many more who still flourish their pens in Dublin and 
elsewhere. Not to forget Miss Mary Frances MacHugh, 
the only woman journalist on the staff, afterwards the 
author of Thalassa and The Bud of Spring, memorable 
pictures of a vanishing Clare and a by no means vanished 
Dublin. 

Such were the colleagues in the sentinel tower and 
along the winding paths into the very heart of the epic 
and agony of Ireland from 1919 to 1922, and what an epic 
and agony it was to prove ! 

It was a wonder that the Freeman staff survived at all 
with the sensations which soon became its daily portion. 
If I did not here restrain my pen I could unfold many a 
mournful tale of the Freeman" s aftermath. Of the older 
reporters I knew on the paper all but one have since died. 
Among the sub-editors the toll was almost equally great. 
Vivid memories come to me of a raid on the paper, and 
the subsequent shock to a sub-editor with a weak heart 
who used to lie groaning in agony on the floor when 
heavy firing made the nights hideous. Or the face of 
another sub-editor who grew paler and paler nightly as he 
subbed the horrors of the “blood column” : the murders, 
reprisals, burnings, shootings and the whole tale of what 
the political enthusiasts love to-day to call : “ The five 
glorious years.” They were not so glorious from the 
•’dS 



Remembering Sion 

sentinel tower of the Freeman or on the winding path 
into the centre of the glory. Sometimes a reporter down 
the country on a job got a blow in the face fiom some 
military officer and the infoimation: “All you bloody 
Dublin rags are hand in hand with the murder gang ! ” 

To sketch the Editor of the Freeman^ Mr. Patrick 
Hooper (afterwards a Free State Senator) is a task beyond 
me. He was a kindly and courageous man, a perfect 
Editor devoted to his staff. He survived Mount) oy Jail, 
the bombs and bullets of the Black and Tans and Irregu- 
lars alike. "When his life was threatened during the Civil 
War he insisted on walldng unguarded through Dublin. 
This was nothing to him. Eveiy night of his editorship 
his mail contained threatening letters from both sides. 
Before he died he saw the Freeman sink in calm waters 
after surviving all the storms through which his courage 
had long piloted it. 

I joined the Freeman reporting staff just after the great 
hunger strike in Mountjoy, which lasted eleven days, in 
March 1920. Frank Gallagher has left on record an 
extraordinary picture in his Days of Fear of the sensa- 
tions of the hunger strikers and the turmoil without; the 
overwhelming display of force outside the prison, the ebb 
and flow of hope and fear within, the end of the hunger 
strike following a general strike in Dublin. Never since 
the Conscription crisis had Dublin been so deeply moved 
as by this hunger strike. The one day stoppage had been 
prolonged indefinitely, and until the release of the pri- 
soners on the second or third day of the stoppage there 
was a feeling abroad in the city that anything might 
happen. Soon afterwards Labour once more took a 
hand in the struggle by refusing to transport munitions 
of war. This meant liiat armed soldiers would not be 
carried on the railways. On the appearance of troops at 
any station the guard refused to give die signal for the 

269 



Remcmhering Sion 

train to start and the driver refused to drive the train. 
This led to a long series of suspensions. In Kings- 
bridge railway terminus the military authorities thought 
to break the strike by marching about half-a-dozen 
soldiers in every day to fill three wagons. Day after day 
the railway workers refused to convey the troops and as 
I inquired daily I got the same answer from a weary 
official : Two more men suspended. These damned 

wagons are eating up our best men and the troops are 
going by road until they break the strike.'" One morning 
as I went towards Kingsbridge I saw a sheet of flame 
darting up above the station, and when I went in to make 
the usual inquiry a no longer sad-faced official told me 
that an armed party had entered the station and over- 
powered the usual half-dozen soldiers who were waiting 
to board the wagons, tied up the soldiers and set the 
wagons alight. Inside the station the usual array of red- 
hatted officers were rushing round and waiting impatiently 
for the arrival of the fire brigade. Meanwhile the wagons 
blazed fiercely and a crowd of Dublin wits were quizzing 
an innocent Tommy who kept on repeating: “ "e came 
up to me, and said : ‘ put "em up, chum ! ' and I thought 
was kidding, but "e wasn't!” This tale the Tommy 
repeated again and again to his delighted questioners 
until the fire brigade arrived amid a great buzzing and 
shouting from the red-hats. But the fire brigade men 
refused to go near the wagons saying, as trade unionists, 
they would do nothing to save the wagons which had 
thrown so many men out of employment. The red- 
hatted officers screamed in their faces, but the fire brigade 
men stood silent and impassive with a suggestion of 
contempt in their eyes. The Captain, a grim and bronze- 
faced man, told the military with a grin he could do 
nothing. The fire brigade announced they would stand 
by until the wagons were burned to ashes and take any 
270 



Remembering Sion 

measures necessary to prevent the fire spreading. This 
munition strike went ahead until the main lines of Ireland 
closed down and eventually, after a six months’ struggle, 
Labour called the strike off. While it lasted whole areas 
were cut off. I remember travelling on the first train to 
the West of Ireland at the close of the strike and a great 
silence hung over the rusty lines as the train made its way 
to the seaport of Westport. 

From the sentinel tower I saw the Terror, and the 
Terror had many faces. Sometimes it was the burned 
and wrecked town of Balbriggan with its tale of mid- 
night murder and blazing houses and the Black and Tans 
shrieking like demons as they dragged the two Re- 
publican leaders from their houses and left them riddled 
with bullets and gaping wounds in their throats. As you 
left the train you saw a ruined factory with fire-worn 
walls; but it was only in the centre of the town, with its 
tumbled houses and bullet-scarred panes and terror- 
shaken groups whispering at corners, that the damage 
was apparent. In the poorer quarter of the town you 
saw gutted rows of houses and women shivering with 
frightened, despairing eyes beside their ruined homes as 
they told you : “ They were devils, devils, devils. They 
screamed like devils and acted like devils and may the 
Devil their Father take them in the end ! ” Dublin lay 
under Curfew, the hour of which was lowered with every 
street ambush, until eight o’clock on a summer evening saw 
the heart of the capital silent; and in the slums the children 
cooped up in stench and fear breathed in fear and disease 
night after night. Automatically the fingers of the 
Dublin journalists formed the familiar story: “ At eight 
or six or seven o’clock this morning or evening a bomb 
explosion, followed by a number of shots, was heard as 
a military lorry passed through Blank Street. The mili- 
tary returned the fire. There were no military casualties. 

271 



Remembering Sion 

Later a number of civilians were treated, detained or 
identified by their relatives at the city hospitals.” 
Through the Dublin streets lumbered the lorries with 
rifles protruding or the bird-cage variety of light tenders in 
which the Black and Tans sailed round in to invite bombs 
and pot shots from the dark lanes and shady corners. 
Sometimes a Black and Tan in mufti struck a Dubliner 
across the face in Grafton Street. Sometimes pistols 
barked in broad daylight and a G-man or Secret Service 
agent dropped dead on the pavement. Sometimes in a 
field near a Dublin bridge a Sinn Fein sympathiser was 
found dying during Curfew hours riddled with bullets. 
Once I went up to a Dublin hotel and was present while 
the police opened a room where a murder had occurred 
the night before. Across a bed lay a man with a deep 
bullet wound in the lower part of his chin, his eyes glazed 
and the sheets drenched with blood. There was only one 
bullet mark in the room on the wall opposite the door. 
It was quite evident that he had been shot down as he 
went to the door for in the room all signs of struggle 
were absent. A bag on the chair beside the bed had been 
tumbled in a hurried search. Two men had called in the 
night and departed unnoticed. The man was a Kilmal- 
lock town counsellor of Sinn Fein sympathies who had 
passed a pleasant evening at the Abbey Theatre the night 
before. He had been unarmed and had no association 
with the I.R.A., but unfortunately for him his name and 
the name of a well-known Volunteer leader in the South 
were the same. The Castle propaganda department in 
the same clay issued two reports: a notorious gunman 
named Lynch had opened fire on a raiding party which 
had come to question him ; a respected town counsellor 
named Lynch, of moderate Sinn Fein views, had been 
murdered by a party of Sinn Fein extremists. After that 
I had few illusions about the Castle propaganda, and when 
272 



Rememhering Sion 

later I read the revelations of General Crozier I found to 
my surprise I still retained more than I should have. 
Half-way through the Terror, the General resigned in 
disgust and told the world.” Not that there was much 
room for any journalist to retain illusions in that time. 
Once I had to inquire into the death of two young men 
found riddled near Drumcondra with tin cans on their 
heads. One was still alive in the morning and in hospital 
accused the Black and Tans of taking him and his com- 
panion up under Curfew, examining them and then 
driving them in a motor-car to the field and shooting 
them. The Castle issued a statement claiming that the 
young men had been interrogated and released in good 
time to reach their homes before Curfew. This was too 
cool. I had interviewed the father of one of the men 
before the Castle statement was issued, and quite casually 
he had told me how he had rushed towards the Black and 
Tan lorry as he heard of his son’s arrest. It drove 
off and looking up at the clock of Amiens Street station 
he saw it was five minutes to ten, the Curfew hour. 
Nevertheless the young men had ample time to be driven 
all the way up the quays to the Castle, examined, and 
reach their homes before Curfew! This incident was too 
much for some of the Auxiliaries, to their eternal honour, 
who openly charged their colleagues with the murder, 
but a whitewashing inquiry soon settled that. Some- 
times there was a humming of lorries after Curfew and 
a blaze of searchlights and in the morning it was learned 
that the raiders had just missed Collins or Brugha or 
Mulcahy again. Or an entire Dublin district awoke to find 
itself cordonned with troops and barbed wire and raiding 
parties combed out house after house yelling virtuously: 

Mick Collins is here. Don’t tell us any of your lies, we 
know everything ! ” In the meanwhile Michael Collins 
either watched the raid a few yards outside the cordon 
s 27^ 



Rememhering Sion 

Of sat quietly in a Dublin hotel known to hundreds. The 
Terror darkened with battles in the hills and blazing 
barracks and scaffolds in the grey mornings and firing 
parties in the south and long columns of horrors deepening, 
when over it all rose a Star. Terence MacSwiney stepped 
into the place of his murdered friend, Thomas MacCurtain, 
whom the Castle assured the world had been done to death 
by extremists, whereat Cork smiled sourly for it knew 
more about those extremists than any other part of Ireland, 
and the new Lord Mayor of Cork summed up himself and 
his times in immortal words : “ I come here more as a 
soldier stepping into the breach than as an administrator 
to fill the first post in the municipality. . . . We see in 
the manner our late Lord Mayor was murdered an attempt 
to terrify us all. Our first duty is to answer that threat 
in the only fitting manner by showing ourselves un- 
terrified, cool and inflexible for the fulfilment of our chief 
purpose — the peace and happiness of our country. To 
that end we are here. . . . This contest of ours is not on 
our side a rivalry of vengeance, but one of endurance — 
it is not they who can inflict the most suffering, but they 
who can endure the most will conquer. . . . We ask no 
mercy and we will make no compromise. But to the 
Divine Author of mercy we appeal for strength to sustain 
us, whatever the persecution, that we may bring our people 
victory in the end. The civilised world dare not look on 
indifferent. But if the rulers of the earth fail us we have yet 
sure succour in the Ruler of Heaven; and though to some 
impatient hearts His judgments seem slow, they never fail, 
and when they fall they are overwhelming and final.” In 
these words MacSwiney gave a summary of the faith which 
upheld him in his hunger strike of seventy-five days in 
Cork and Brixton. 

I saw Cork during this time with its Curfew, and there 
was an intenser terror by day and night than in Dublin 

i74 



Rememlering Sion 

with all the alarms and thrills and horrors and spasms. 
In the jail I saw the hunger strikers wasting to skeletons 
with the stench of slow decay blowing through the cells. 
Two deaths occurred during the hunger strike and it was 
noticed that the coffins were light as they were borne from 
the jail. This long agony kept time with the agony of 
Brixton and outlasted it. A sigh of relief went through 
the city when MacSwiney died. Once at the jail gate I 
heard the father of one of the dead hunger strikers turn 
to the crowd and say: “ My boy is dead. He died for 
Ireland. If he were a criminal I would hang my head in 
shame, but now I can walk with head erect through the 
streets of Cork.” Every night we watched the search- 
lights of the lorries playing on the houses of Patrick Street 
under Curfew and every day we watched the insolent 
Black and Tans flaunting themselves everywhere and 
sometimes striking the people across the face with whips 
looted from a convenient shop. Past them a lame man 
limped loaded with revolvers or ammunition for the fight 
fiercer here than in any other part of Ireland. Terence 
MacSwiney lay dead in the city hall with copper-hued 
face and his body was borne through streets white with 
flowers. His friend, Daniel Corkery, summed him up in 
one mighty line : “ A star of morn, a-tiptoe and a-shout !” 

The Terror deepened in Dublin and I saw on the green 
hurling field of Croke Park in Dublin a hurler lying dead 
with glassy eyes, with green sash around him, after the 
Black and Tans had fired on the crowd as a reprisal for 
the shooting of sixteen court-martial and intelligence 
officers in their beds that Bloody Sunday morning of 
2,ist November 1920. Next day, in a morgue of a Dublin 
hospital, I saw the sixteen victims of that reprisal lying 
stark beneath their sheets with the wounds in their chests 
and heads. And so on from horror to horror until the 
Truce of July 1921, with a lively Black and Tan raid on 

275 



Rem emhe ring Sion 

the Freeman after an ambush outside the door, the April 
before. 

Then came the crisis which swept me over the seas 
from Sion and a minor nervous breakdown to round off 
the journey, or my memories of Sion would have been 
even grimmer at this stage than they were. The Re- 
publican propagandist to-day will tell you that the spirit 
of the people in those days was magnificent and those were 
the most magnificent years of Irish history, and in this 
the Republican propagandist is quite right. But the 
Republican propagandist conveniently forgets quite a 
number of things equally true. Irish history did not 
begin in Nineteen Sixteen, nor were the Irish people the 
post-card heroes and plaster saints the new jingoes would 
have us believe. Ireland saw such men as she had seen 
in few other generations : Griffith, Pearse, Collins, 
Childers, Brugha, Connolly, MaeSwiney. The heroism 
of the Invisible Army was none the less great for the 
absence of the glamorous background of insurrection 
with barricades and orchestras of artillery. The stand of 
a small people against the victors of the World War was 
such as to stir the heart and imagination. But this struggle 
ended in a crime against Ireland and left it with a bloody 
gulf of Civil War memories that hardly a generation will 
wipe out. And the cause of this stared the old doctrinaires 
and wrangling leaders and flocking job-hunters and yap- 
ping camp-followers full in the face. Liam Mellows saw 
it when he said they had all become involved so much in 
the routine of the struggle that they had forgotten all they 
had learned in the beginnings of the movement, and then 
he marched into the Four Courts with Rory O’Connor. 
To listen to any of them they all saw it and were quite 
ready to act on it if the other side would lie down and 
consent to be walked over. Ireland came from the struggle 
rotten with war neurosis and drunk with phrases and 
27<5 



Rememhering Sion 

reeled to hell for the personal vanities and pettinesses of 
her leaders. It was small consolation to say the Terror 
had driven half Ireland mad. 

Any one on the ditch could see things which made all 
the patriotic legends wither and shrink during the Truce 
and Treaty debate and the days preceding the Civil War, 
any journalist, any policeman, publican or any one else 
who took the trouble to use his eyes or ears. For one 
thing all the politicians utterly lost their sense of humour, 
and some of them have not recovered it since. I remember 
once in the Freeman office I felt the dark hours brightened 
by a verv witty cartoon in the Westminster Gazette by 
F. C. Gould of de Valera as The Cat That Walked Alone, 
Waving His Wild Tale. Various politicians looked at this 
witty drawing and their faces lengthened at the sacrilege 
to their sacred Idol although within a few months they 
were dredging the sewers of Dublin for filth to pour over 
the same idol. One ponderous political celebrity fixed me 
with a pitying glance when I suggested to him that the 
struggle could not end in a Republic. Some months later 
he was exhausting all his vituperation on those who dared 
mention the word. Just then he saw no fun in this cartoon 
or doubted that the portentous Nothings issued as 
official statements were anything short of Holy Writ. 
But when the Treaty was signed all fun deserted 
Ireland. 

I remember one night arguing with a group about the 
Treaty and weary of the personal venom and the slanders 
against Michael Collins excited by the phrase: “ What’s 
good enough for Mick, is good enough for me.” I sought 
to enliven the discussion by saying : “What’s good enough 
for Martin Fitzgerald is good enough for me ! ” I re- 
membered that hard-swearing and hearty gentleman 
stamping and romping down in the Freeman with the 
weary-souied and patient Editor, Hooper, guiding him 

277 



Rememhering Sion 

past all the rocks of his impetuosity and escaping the 
padded cell in the process only by the help of God. 
Frozen grew the faces of my auditors. They were con- 
vinced that Martin had handed me as big a bag of gold 
as they had just accused Lloyd George of handing to 
Collins and Griffith. I went out and had a drink with my 
friend Matt O’Hara, who shook with honest mirth and 
said we were all lunatics from de Valera to Martin 
Fitzgerald, and then lighted his pipe and told me tales of 
Parnell. De Valera resigned in the middle of the amazing 
and emotional debate and Matt told me the tale of Dillon 
buying the Stop Press in Grafton Street to shake his head 
with the words ; “Poor old Dev.! Only five years! Only 
five years !” Then as the debate wore on the lights of the 
Irish Party still in the Freeman smiled at Penrose and 
myself as longer and longer speeches arrived in galley 
proofs : “ Deeds not words i ” they asked us sardonically. 
“ Why, at the height of the Old Party’s glory we never 
spouted half as much as these fellows.” Martin Fitzgerald 
had broadsides fired at the Dail debate and drew down on 
the Freeman the thunders of that assembly by leading 
articles declaring de Valera had “ not the instincts of an 
Irishman in his blood,” interlarded with fulsome and 
clumsy praise of Collins and Mulcahy, who at once 
indignantly protested. The angry Republicans at once 
quoted the many attacks Mr. Griffith had made upon the 
Freeman as a paper nourished on the blood money of 
Lord Edward Fitzgerald and conducted by the infamous 
Sham Squire Francis Fliggins, whose ghost Mr. Griffith 
for long had discerned haunting the premises of the 
organ gorged with Castle gold and an infamous past. 
Martin was not at all damped by this but bided his 
time. 

I watched the Dail debate and found the sight a poignant 
one. It was one long wrestle between ghosts and realities 
278 



Remembering Sion 

with all the stored up personal spleens of five years flaming 
through the rhetoric. My sympathies were all with Collins, 
who seemed to dominate the debates with his force, 
although sometimes in the lobbies one saw him with a 
weary and defiant face. A pathetic group of Easter week 
widows and women who had lost men during the five 
years occupied the centre, and of them all Miss Mary 
MacSwiney stood out for force of intellect and absence 
of any personal appeal to her sufferings or losses in the 
struggle. She was sneered at for her two-and-a-half hours 
speech, but she won my admiration for her amazing 
performance, although I cursed the ordeal at the time. 
Odd phrases ftom de Valera’s involved and meticulous 
orations were moving, and as I listened to him I felt he 
believed what he said. Childers spoke like a quiet ghost 
as Cosgrave handed him a glass of water and then Cosgiave 
himself in a witty speech made the Ddil laugh, and the 
listening American journalists said : “ This guy is a good 
guy. He can malce them get together!” Down in the 
Freeman Hooper guided his vessel over the rocks. As I 
went up to the Gresham Hotel in the evenings I caught 
glimpses of Griffith sitting in a group of friends, a heroic 
little man, as straightforward and simple as I had found 
him when I met him as a journalist or had seen him taldng 
his family out to tea in the grounds of the Dublin Zoo. 
In his days of power he had become a more mellow man 
than in the days I had read his many papers. He sat there, 
a granite figure very near the day when this last crisis 
would fell him to the ground, his life-work done and only 
a half-crown in his pocket. All the journalists of Dublin 
spoke well of him in private, which is the greatest tribute 
to any man. Sometimes Michael Collins appeared with 
Griffith and read out a statement to the waiting journalists. 
Through Dublin ran the undercurrents of feeling, and 
I never had such a disillusioning experience since then as I 

279 



Remembering Sion 

discovered the two political groups had begun to hate each 
other far more than they had ever hated the Black and 
Tans. 

One morning before setting out ior the Freeman I opened 
the paper and saw that Martin had won in the long battle 
with Hooper and Good, and a bitter cartoon of de Valera 
and Childers occupied the place of honour in the main. 
Like a flash I decided I would leave the Freeman and go 
elsewhere. This decision has often puzzled me since, for 
it was inspired by no blind hero-worship of Mr. de Valera. 
I had no illusions about the majority of the Post-Truce, 
Post-Treaty Republicans and my views were deflnitely 
Treatyite. Mr. de Valera’s sincerity impressed me, but 
his speeches bewildered me and the silly hero-worship of 
every phrase and vagary of his by his followers, sincere 
and consistent ones and cowardly and self-seeking ones 
alike, were only less irritating than the open scurrility of 
Martin Fitzgerald backed by his power and wealth and 
incapacity to see that he was wrecking everything his 
courage had won for his paper. This cartoon was a 
symbol of the worst tactics of a certain section of the 
Free State propaganda with which Ireland was to be 
flooded ad nauseam for ten years to come. And these are 
almost my last memories of Sion which survived all the 
wars and rebuilt herself while I was away beside the waters 
of Babylon. Almost casually I left Dublin, expecting to 
be back within a few weeks. The Civil War broke 
and the bottom was blown out of my remaining illusions 
and many of my beliefs. In exile I had the melancholy 
experience of opening an evening paper and reading an 
obituary notice of Michael Collins I had written at 
Hooper’s request just before I left Dublin. I had written 
many such and never seen one of them in print, for the 
Freeman died before they were needed. I would cheer- 
fully have read them all than the one I read on 22nd August 



Remembering Sion 

1922, Only one figure now remains in my gallery of 
Sion memories, a remark of Darrell Figgis calls it to life 
as he pauses in the reporters’ room of the Freeman to say : 

“ The cheek of this Englishman Childers And I 

think as Darrell passes on : “ The very thing the Dublin 
wits say about yourself, you fool ! ” 



SIXTEEN 

A ND yet Darrell Figgis was no fool as he stood 
Vl-talking sanely enough in the reporters’ room, soon 
to have his noble beard clipped by angry gunmen and 
head the poll in the General Election. Dreams haunt that 
adventurous man of the Free State Presidency and he has 
had palpable evidence that Michael Collins has no very 
great love for him, for Michael Collins has kept him out of 
the Ddil by hook and by crook, but Darrell knows his 
hour is here at last and serenely denounces Childers, 
happily oblivious that himself, Collins and Childers are 
all to have varied tragedies for their portion. 

As I worked out my last days on the Freeman and 
grieved my Republican friends with lyrical articles de- 
fending the Treaty in several weekly papers, the figure 
of the man Darrell had attacked loomed large in my 
imagination. Matt O’Hara shook his head over me as 
the Irish Vesuvius and told me that Childers was a great 
man although he disagreed with him. Jimmy Good 
sighed and said Childers would get the shock of his life 
when all the dirt of Ireland was poured down on his un- 
suspecting head in the coming months : and Good smiled 
his sad and cynical smile. 

A cynical Republican friend of mine, who survived the 
Civil War and the prisons of the Free State and a prolonged 
hunger strike in an internment camp, told me that I missed 
nothing during my absence from Dublin during those 
years, since history was duly repeated with a maddening 
reverence for precedence. He drew a witty picture of 
Rory O’Connor seizing the Four Courts because some 



Remembering Sion 

1916 man said that had been done in that historic year, of 
the Irregulars then seizing O’Connell Street positions for 
the same reason, of ambushes of Free State lorries because 
some other veteran stepped forward and said that is what 
had been done in the war against the British, and so on 
like a tale long-known until the day he was arrested, and 
he knew a new era had really dawned when tlie Prison 
Governor greeted him with the words : “ Oh, is that 
yourself? Perhaps you’ll be glad to hear that your bloody 
old father is inside here before you ! ” Romance fades 
from a war in which the combatants know one another 
so well as all that. The pride of Ireland was deeply 
wounded by this war which shattered many illusions ; but 
Ireland recovered therefrom as only a great nation could 
recover from so bloody and heart-rending an upheaval. 
To me the strangest figure of that time was Erskine 
Childers. 

As I read the accounts of his capture and trial away in 
London and I was back again in 1919 as the military 
lorries hummed over the Dublin cobbles and the Dai^ 
Herald one morning published a remarkable letter: 
Erskine Childers had come over to Sinn Fein. A burning 
faith and noble indignation were implicit in every line of 
his denunciation of military rule in Ireland, and after I 
had read this testament I always admired and believed in 
the man who had written it. Dublin was unmoved for 
the most part. What had Erskine Childers told Dublin 
that Dublin did not know already, and moreover Childers 
had fought for the Bridsh and written The Riddle of the 
Sands to save the British Fleet from the Germans; and 
again there was something in the outward Childers to 
which Dublin could not warm until he had been some 
years in his grave. He was a Major and a D.S.O. And 
Dublin laughed at his indignant letter to the Press after 
a military raid on his house, and some young pup in a 

28^ 



Remembering Sion 

ac'concl lieutenant’s uniform had dropped a cigaratte on 
his best carpet. Jancy, was tliat all he had to vex him? 
Jesting and doubting Jdublin h;id no time to listen to the 
chord that was vibrating in the heart of this noble man 
limping past the trees of 'i’erenure, his worn features and 
searching" eyes alight with an other-worldly fire. Some 
strange faith "was graven on his furrowed features and 
mirrored in the thoughtful and ardent look as he pushed 
his bicycle along the hushey Park Road, a bundle of 
papers beneath his arm and all his journeys through the 
clouds and wrestlings with the oceans plain to any eye 
but a Dublin wit at loss for a new epigram. Fate was 
closing in on him: the man ssdio trusts himself and finds 
himself at last by choosing his mother’s Irish nationality, 
dying at the hands of the people he would have free in 
name, letter, spirit and deed. The magic of fieland sur- 
rounds his boyhood and the venom of Irelatvd his grave, 
lie dies in his fifty-second year with but two years of open 
and mililanl service to Irish indejrendence. lie has fought 
the Boers and learned what freedom is: he has fought the 
Germans and found another riddle than the riddle of the 
sands; he has defied all the trcacheric!; and majesty of the 
winds and oceans, learning some detej) lesson there. . . . 
At length, he dies for “the established Republic” no- 
where to be found in his Framework of Home Rule. 
Serenely he walks tinder tlic Tcrctuire trees, half-way 
through the drama begun one, morning in the last July 
our world bad spent at peace, the jitly clay F>ublin has 
first heard guns for a centiuy. The Volunteers had 
marched to llowth to wait for Childers’s white yacht and 
a thousand heavy German rifles aboard which bad helped 
to give the final push to the creaky Empire of Napoleon 
the. Third. Dry and silent he .stands, this man of fate, 
Erskiue Childers, tuicl the Volunteers seize the gtms with 
a cheer and march citywards towards the Scottish Bor- 
284 



Rcmcrnhering Sion 

derers and Dublin Castle in a panic and dead women and 
children and a sudden quickening of hate. , . , Few but 
Arthur Griffith standing there, a future unrelenting rival, 
could have told who Childers was, or that he has ever 
done anything else but write his warning to England, the 
only novel perhaps which ever moved a State Department 
to change its policy. It is not beyond possildlity that 
some gossip-monger already whispers that Childers is a 
man to watch as closely as that lime-lighter of a Darrell 
Figgis in his African explorer’s hat and auburn beard who 
has left bis photographs in every newspaper office he 
knows and fears that Childers may dim his ever carefully 
burnished halo- Even Childers himself hardly con- 
sciously understands that he has written a graver warning 
to England than that which has given him world fame 
and an interrogation tnark in the cvcr-wnlchfnl eye of 
Mr. Griffith, for the warniitg is between the lines, and 
may be also a line from an old tmemy of Home Rule even 
yet germinates in his brain : “ The alternative to Flome 
Rule is — Separation.” Who btit the brains which have 
planned this Flowth quay drama of marching men and 
ponderous rifle smuggled in from Antwerp, the hidden 
chiefs and plotters of the l.R.B. or Patrick Pearse in his 
Hertnitagc eight miles away or James Connolly in Belfast, 
thinks the alternative other than a facile phrase to kindle 
hate or hope . . . Dry and silent in the sunlight among 
the sea-birds’ moaning, Erskine Childers stands and 
broods, trusting himself: he has seen the conquered 
Boers make peace, and laughed at the Irish soldiers who 
think him ” a ktrock-kncecl Imperialist,” liis heart sad at 
flaming farms and concentration camps and so fine a 
historian of all that thereafter that a blue pencil changes 
and cramps him. A wind from the Wicklow glens of 
boyhood sweeps over the South African veld, chasing 
all the dust of the House of Commons from his mind. 

285 



Remembering Sion 

lie is a Liberal now, a Nationalist, deeper read in Irish 
history than this iron-jawed Griffith in constitutions and 
the rise and fall of states, and sadly enough for both as 
tenacious and as unyielding, wiser and more learned than 
all the cheering men. One ever growing and searching 
for the truth with a phrase from Emerson for his abiding 
star : the phrase that is repeated on nearly every page he 
writes whether he is tracking future German invaders or 
inciting Dublin to revolt: “Trust thyself, every heart 
vibrates to that iron string 1 ” Or turning to the pages of 
Herman Melville’s Mohy Dick^ he finds another text for 
every crisis of destiny, and quotes it too: 

“ Sonic chapters back one Bulkington was spoken of — 
a tall, new-landed mariner encountered in New Bedford 
at the inn. When on that shivering winter’s night the 
‘ Pequod ’ (the Nantucket whaler) thrust her vindictive 
bows into the cold malicious waves, who should I see 
standing at her bows liut Bulkington, I looked with 
sympathetic awe upon the man who in mid-winter, just 
landed from a four years’ dangerous voyage could so un- 
rcstingly push oil again for still another tempestuous term. 
The land seemed scorching to his feel. Wonderfullest 
things arc ever the unmentionable; deep memories yield 
no epitaphs ; this six-inch chapter is the stonelcss grave of 
Bulkington. It fared with him as with the storm-tossed 
ship itself who drives along the leeward land, Hic port 
would fain give succour ; the port is pitiful ; in the port is 
safety, comfort, hearthstone, supper, warm blankets, 
friends, all that’s kind to our mortalities. But in that gale 
the port, the land, is that ship’s direct jeopardy; she must 
fly all hospitality ; one touch of land, though it bu t graze the 
keel would make her shudder through and through. With 
all her might she crowds all sail off shore, in so doing 
fights against the very winds that, fain would blow her 
•’Sd 



Remamhering Sion 

homeward ; seeks all the lashed sea’s landlessness again, 
for refuge’s sake rushing into peril, her only friend her 
bitlercsL foe. 

“ Know ye now Bulkington ? Glimpses do ye seem to 
see of that mortally intolerable truth that all deep, earnest 
thinking is but the intrepid eflbrt of the soul to keep the 
open independence of the sea, whilst the wildest winds 
of heaven and earth conspire lo cast her on the treacherous 
slavish shore. . . . Better is it to perish in that howling 
infinite than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if 
there were safety. For, worm-like then who would craven 
crawl to land ? Terrors of the terrible is all this agony so 
vain! Take heart, take heart, O Bulkington j bear thee 
grimly, demi-god! Up front the spray of thy ocean 
perishing, straight up leaps thy apotheosis ! ” 

Upon the deck of his white yacht Erskine Childers 
stands, foredoomed to jtcrish in a howling infinite, deem- 
ing Wolfe Tone as yet an ardent but inadequate inspiration 
for all the splendour of liis ideal Cliilders has seen on a well- 
scaimed Irish page but witli fewer illusions about the Kiitg, 
Lords and Commons of 1782 than Mr. Griffith still glower- 
ing in the ranks below. Away from all safe pons and 
alluring shores the white yacht sails to wider seas. . . . 
Soon high in the clouds Erskine Childers is fighting the 
Germans with bomb and camera, first above their Heligo- 
land to round his prophecies with crashing steel and 
flaming death. . . . He skirts the Belgian coast, guiding 
war vessels over a map of waters planned long before when 
the right and majesty of Empire dazzled him more than 
now with the echoes of Bachelors’ Walk in his ears and 
whispers of half-doubts from the South African scene; 
but onwards he goes into the wars be loves, maiming life 
and Iicaltb, a man of bis word, even as with the news of 
19 id he half senses a coming revolution. ... A year 

287 



Remcrnhcring Sion 

passes and it dawns slowly on him, even amid all the 
desperate planning of tlu; Irish Convention and the smart 
Conscription device which rounds off its endless talk and 
plan and counter-plan, that his Home Rule is not so much 
a framework as a dead skeleton and he thinks of things 
to he done when he has fulfilled his word to the British 
and his pen and his arm shall be solely at the service of his 
mother’s country. And when the Germans have laid 
down their arms he secs no hope in President Wilson at 
whose feet the war-racked world kneels in hope and awe. 
“ A weak, vain face,” he tells his friend, Basil Williams, 
“ ITc will do nothing! ” 

Erskinc Childers goes over to Sinn Fein, throwing all 
his fortune, his name, his life to the service of Ireland, 
lie becomes a propagandist , a member of the Duil, a judge 
in the secret Sinn Fein Courts, la the English Press he 
denounces the military regime in Ireland with a passion 
and thoroughness backed by the prestige of his life and 
work: “ This Irish war small as it may seem now will, 
if it is persisted in, corrupt and eventually ruin not only 
your army but your nation and your Empire itself. What 
right lias England to torment and dcmtiralisc Ireland.^ It 
is a shameful course and the more shameful in that she 
professes to have fought for five years for the liberty of 
oppressed nations. But her own oppression of the Irish 
nation will react disastrously upon lierself. The reaction 
has begun.” {Daily News, Mixvchzf.), 1920.) “The block- 
house system in the war against the Boers of South Africa, 
reinforced by the destruction of farms, the devastation of 
crops, and the formation of vast concentration camps 
— measures impossible in Ireland apparently .suc- 
ceeded, actually failed. For, South Africa, now publicly 
acknowledged by the British Government to have 
‘ absolute freedom to secede from the Empire ’ is, in all 
but abstract theory, as free as air. To learn wisdom from 

i88 



Remembering Sion 

these military failures is my last word to my English 
readers. You cannot govern Ireland. The Irish people 
can, and the island, 1 beg you to remember is theirs not 
yours. When they demand their independence it is in 
your interests as well as theirs that they should have it.” 
{Idem, May 20, 1920.) Through all his life until then 
his heart has vibrated 10 the iron string but never so 
strongly and surely as now: one has only to read his 
articles at this lime to realise this. Home Rule, the Irish 
Convention, all his careful theories arc now things of the 
past. Around this flame still rises the dust of the library : 
he ends his pamphlet on British Military Rule in Ireland 
with the quotation from Professor Dicey: “The 
alternative policy will then be not Home Rule hut 
Separation.” 

No more and no less docs he say till the end, reiterating 
somewhat dogmatically that Ireland can never enjoy real 
Dominion status no matter what legal safeguards are pro- 
vided since proximity to Britain forbids that. When he 
was confronted with the 1921 Treaty, his comments were 
curiously like an echo of the old Gaelic poet who cried 
that if God had willed there should be a new Ireland called 
England then to that isle might we all bid farewell. His 
answer to all questions was to point to the map. A pro- 
found idea took root in his brain : the much-abused and 
misrepresented Document Number Two, an independent 
Irish state in loose treaty association with the British 
Commonwealth. One has only to remember the ex- 
perience and learning of this man, to read his apologia in 
the Daily Herald ; his Framawot k of Home Rule, his per- 
sonal journal; With the C.LV. in South Africa; to glance 
at his volume in The Times history of the Boer War, his 
long years spent among the most diverse circles of men 
and with many minds, amid the wars and under the mid- 
night oil to realise the tragedy of a great man denied a 
T 289 



Kamamhcring Sion 

justice and a hearing thal was his due. Dc Valera alone 
sensed his greatness ah hough Michael Collins came near 
to doing so in spite (jf the strongest temptation and induce- 
ment to the contrary. Ihit another great man could not: 
Arthur Griffith, and Griffith had succumbed to the very 
strong inducement and temptation to think the worst of 
the man who, at the crisis of 1921, threatened the accom- 
plishment of (Trifluh’s life-work. Long before Childers 
had roused the animosity atid suspicion of Griffith with his 
evident conviction that lie surpassed Gri/lilh in knowledge 
of conslitiuional law. Awakened by the biUerncss of the 
Dail debate, Childers in chivalrous astonishment stated 
the case against him.self with great force, only asking for 
the withdrawal of the infamous charge against him. 
Collins could rise above resentment of the savage person- 
alities of the Republicans and answer Childers courteously 
and justly with but the glancing stroke at Mr. Childers 
the propagandist, that Collins and Grillith fiad stit tltrough 
more savage attacks night al'ter night, and no chivalrous 
voice had liecn raised from Mr. Childers’s side in their 
defence. But Griffith could only answer that there was 
no obligation to answer any damned I'inglishman or every 
damned thing an Englishman said. A Dublin wit thus 
inspired wrote : 

Thi\ Black and Tans in vain ate i\oni\ 

The khaki^clad are fitme In rain^ 

If one of that accursed 

Is htq^f*ed and snffered to fernain, 

JP7iO may hy itfdle redeem from pawn 

What EuftlaruTs attm cauU not ret aim ♦ . . 

So you will serve yiUir country hest^ 

By servinff ours heyond its needs ^ 

Until the ferment coldly set 
Fhmes up to crown your secret deeds ^ 
ytnd you survey it with-^'^repret^ 

While wasted Ireland smokes and bleeds^ 



Remetnhering Sion 

To Childers this seemed doggerel, and he said so. He 
could not see for all his visions under the Terenure trees 
himself through the eyes of his opponents or that the 
savage and anonymous versifier was expressing what a 
good many people in Trcdand at that moment were thinking 
about Mr. JErskinc Childers. Was he not of mixed race, 
he asked, and in stich a crisis, had he not the right to 
choose the nationality and the service of the country he 
had loved since he had visited it from his boyhood.^ He 
did not add that it was late in the day to question his 
motives after using his name and services nor that he had 
broken with nearly all his remaining English friends who 
furiously denounced his stand against the 1921 Treaty. 
But it was not in Erskinc Childers to count the cost. 
Once during the Black and Terror, he heard that a certain 
gunman had come to Dublin, a man who had vowed 
never to be taken alive. Childers listened quietly to the 
story, and said: “ Bring him to my house.” “ But the 
man will shoot al any raiders,” he was told. Childers 
went upstairs atid came down with two revolvers, saying 
quietly: “ How let him come, and if he has to shoot, I 
will help him.” A. legend grew round Childers later of 
the sour fanatic who destroyed factories and bridges and 
cable stations ruthlessly, but it was untrue, for the Re- 
publicans in revolt against the Free State never, according 
to Sean O'Faolain, who ought to know, really used his 
military experience. He had won the trust of such mili- 
tants as Caihal Brugha, but the shadow of suspicion 
followed him. Even before the 1921 split there were 
Republicans who murmured that Childers should not be 
trusted with responsibility and secrets. Yet it needed 
but a look at him to know the man was killing himself with 
overwork; a glance at his writings to feel his accents true, 

A man’s enemies often tell the deepest truth about him. 
There was a truth in the gibe wrung from GrifEth in a 
T * 291 



Rememhcring Sion 

momcnl of intolerable strain when, after an emotional 
scene in Ddil Eircann, Mr. Chiklcrs rose in all innocence 
to ask whether the new Provisional Government would 
function mtclcr the statutory powers conferred by the 
Partition Act. Mr. Grillitli had been elected President 
in place of Mr. de Valera and at this moment bouquets 
had passed between them. Ratiging the table, Arthur 
Griflith said dc Valera had made a generous statement 
and he had replied, but was he to reply to any damned 
thing an Englishman said.^ He answered his own 
question and said he would not reply to any damned 
Englishmatt in that assembly. Amazement was all over 
the face of Childers: had not his constituents known him 
from his boyhood siitce he was six, without defending 
his nationality he ct)uld prove in private to the angry 
Mr. Griihth that he was not in the true sense an English- 
man, and indignation rapidly mastering him, that had Mr. 
Griffith banged tables in Lonrlon at the negotiations things 
might have been different. I’lic scene ended in (yriffith’s 
angry: “T banged the table before your countryman, 
Lloyd George 1 ” And in Madame Marcievicz’s inter- 
jection in all innocence t)f the difference between an 
O’Keefe and a Gore-Booth: “And Grilllth is a Welsh 
name ! ” 'I’lic truth in Griffith’s gibe was better expressed 
in the more genial version of George Bernard Shaw that 
Erskinc Childers, like all Englishmen, was a born anarchist 
who needed a policeman to tvalch over him or else he 
would pull down the sun and the moon aitcl the stars to 
get what be wanted, lliere was a truth too in the gibe 
of a colleague that Childers wa.s neither Irish nor English 
but the pale shade of the Idea in Itself. And watching 
the pallid and gentle-voiced Childers hugging' his beloved 
Document Number Two and pointing to the map of 
Great Britain and Ireland and droning on imperturbably 
about clauses and constitutions and sub-.scction B, and 
292 



Rememhering Sion 

that Canada was i-hice riiousand miles away from iheguns 
of the Britisli Fleet, some saw in that voice and fragile 
profile the very Saint Just of the Irish Revolution. The 
house was on lire around him but he argued on. To the 
exasperated followers of Michael Collins he seemed only 
an ex-cavalry officer of the British Army where most of 
his fighting had been done. He had little of the magic 
of de Valera, this ex-officer of the British Army with a 
bee in his bonnet, it seemed, and they asked with im- 
patience who was he to lecture them all on the merits 
and demerits of what the valour of Collins and the brain 
of Griffith had won. Had not Ireland always assimilated 
the invaders, would not her spirit which had moulded the 
Norman also conquer this new Free State machinery and 
mould it to her spirit and will in spite of all the three 
thousand miles to Canada and the sixty to the English 
coast and the archaic words of musty Acts and the symbols 
which so annoyed the polite and persistent Mr. Childers 
who had spent his leiisure time in brooding over such 
trivialities so long that they had got on his brain. More- 
over he had written one of the best defences of Dominion 
Home Rule himself, and it was late in the day to go back 
on it all and liector the men who had done all the fighting 
while Mr. Childers had been revising his book after he 
had finished fighting the Boers and bombing the Germans. 
So in their rage they forgot the patient and disinterested 
man who had shared their risks and worked twenty-two 
hours a day for them and they joined up with Mr. Winston 
Churchill who had fought under as many different banners 
as Mr, Childers, yelling at the top of their voices: 
“ Renegade ! ” Mr. Churchill repeated it with unction 
and effect but it was too grim an hour to see the joke, 
although fortunately Mr. Churchill the historian proved 
more generous and more wise than Mr. Churchill the 
politician and pilot of the Irish Treaty. 


^93 



Rememhcring Sion 

Yet all the while Erskinc Childers had liis own passion- 
ate partisans. J^erhaps the greatest was Cathal Brugha, 
whose fierce eyes would have detected a humbug or 
traitor a mile away, and de Valera who never denied his 
dcl)t to Cliildcrs, Those who worked with Childers were 
also his strongest defenders in a country where the mirage 
of Childers the Spy — a legend carefully s])read by the 
official Free State JhT)paganda inacliinc and even more 
infaiiH^us and vindictive llian his execution carried out 
on tile most ilimsy excuse and with itulecenl haste — was to 
prove a very death warrant, ft was a pleasure to work 
with this courteous man who never spared himself. The 
man had a spell. It was possible to feel that as you 
watclied him walking from his house fronting the Dublin 
hills or silling unobtrusively in tlie Dail or speaking 
quietly to the jourtialists in the Mansion House. He 
speaks best in liis court-martial speech where lie describes 
his own life and ideals. Before concluding iliis section 
therewith, and sending l)a(‘k Erskine (d)ilders to walk in 
these ineiuorics of Sion under the 1 enanire trees with his 
sad and noble destiny in his racked and austere face, it 
may be as wt*!! to recall that he was shot for liis possession 
of a suuill and not very lethal revolver prestsUed to him 
by Michael Collins, that he was captured after leaving 
his cousirEs house in County Wicklow on his way to 
Duldin to obtain documents dealing with the London 
negotiations. lie had been warned lliat the Free State 
Government intended to execute him if they captured 
him. In the South lie appears to have takcsi little active 
part* in military operations. (ihilders/’ says Scan 
OT'aolain in his Life of Da Falcra from iirst-liand 
knowledge of the Civil War, was the strangest figure 
in all that drama, and hts end one of the most tragic. 1 le 
never took an active part in the military campaign, al- 
though it was rumoured at the time he did, and he was 
294 



Remembering Sion 

even charged with attempting to destroy the Trans- 
atlantic Cable Station at Valentia. He was what the 
Russians call a “ fatal ” character and the shadow of his 
doom was over him from the first. It was sad to see this 
highly talented man, the author of books of world fame, 
a man who had held positions of trust and honour under 
the British Government, moving quietly among the 
Southern LR.A. officers, who knew nothing of his career 
and services to Ireland, and completely underestimated 
his ability. I once heard one of them say patronisingly, 
‘ Childers, you ought to be given some kind of Army 
job. You would make quite a good adjutant.’ ” Some- 
times the talc has been told tears came into the eyes of 
Erskine Childers as he watched the worn and weary 
Irregular columns on the march. Again he retained the 
stamp the British Army had left upon him and rebuked 
the easy-going officers of the I.R.A., telling them they 
would never get their Republic if they were so slack in 
their work, “ It was Ersldne’s sniff that got him shot ! ” 
said one to me who knew and loved him well. “ He was 
a Major to the end though never a sergeant-major!” 
His last words were worthy of a great mind and a noble 
man. He shook hands with his firing-party and in the 
last documents he penned breathed a spirit of forgiveness 
and hope in the triitmph of his cause. He resents only 
the accusation that he hates England, and the words of 
his friend, Basil Williams, may be quoted before we allow 
him to speak for himself: “ He would accept no com- 
jjroraise and could not for a moment see that the substance, 
for example, of Dominion Status might mean all and 
perhaps more than all that the name of Republic could 
give. And when it came to means of achieving his end, 
he had become almost ferocious and pitiless. Not 
that he did not love England still: that love he 
never lost, but he felt that, even in her interests, 

295 



Remembering Sion 

uticonipromising sternness was the only possible 
policy.” 

This is what he told his court-martial: 

“ I am by birth, domicile, and deliberate choice of 
citizenship an Irishman. My father was English, born in 
Ejiglaud, my mother was Irish, born in Ireland, Anna, 
the daughter of Thomas J. Barton of Glendalough 
House, Annamoe House, Co. Wicklow. The place 
became my own home and domicile from 1883 onwards, 
until 1 married in 1904, fur both my parents having died 
when I was ytuing, from the age of thirteeji I was brought 
up at Glendalough House by my uncle and aunt, Charles 
and Agnes Btuton, along with tlidr own children. I was 
educated in England, travelling to tmd fro to school and 
college, and in 1895 entered the British Civil Service as 
a Committee Clerk in the House of Commons, remaining 
there until 1910, when I threw up my profession and 
prospects in order to be free for political work as a 
Liberal, and especially in the cause of Irish Freedom. As 
a ytnmg man I had been a Unionist :ind Imperialist, but 
experience of the South African War, in which I .served 
for ten monllis as a Volunteer, afterwards writing a 
history of the guerilla phase, changed the whole current 
of my life aitd made me a Liberal and a Nationalist. 

“ I wrote and spoke much for Irish Home Rule in the 
years 1910-1914, and in 1911 published the Framework of 
Home Rule, advocating and olaborating a Dominion 
Settlement, and stressing the vital imporlance of fiscal 
autonomy; practically the same schtmic as tlrat of the 
pretjent ‘Treaty.’ But I sot no limit l(» the national 
inarch. The keynote of the hook was thtit Ireland should 
have what the Irish iieople wanted. As there was no 
Republican movement at the time, and Sinn l"oiu was 
very weak, I naturally worked on Florae Rule lines, 
3,96 



Remembering Sion 

though of the widest scope. The book, of course, was 
of no avail at the time. Even the petty Liberal Bill of 
1912 was shipwrecked owing to the surrender of Asquith 
to Carson. In warm sympathy with the Irish Volunteers, 
I joined a stnall committee formed in May 1914, to supply 
them with arms, and myself, with my wife and one or 
two friends, ran a cargo of guns into Ilowth in July. 

“ Then came the European War. Like thousands of 
Irish Nationalists, I was misled by the idea of a ‘ war for 
small nations,’ and joined the British Naval Air Service, 
afterwards amalgamated with the Royal Air Force, leaving 
it at the end of the war with the rank of Major. The 
bulk of my work consisted of active service flying in 
sea-planes as an observer and intelligence oiHcer — that 
is, using camera, wireless, and machine-gun in the North 
Sea, Dardanelles, Egypt and Belgian Coast. I was also 
for an interval of a year navigating ofTicer in a Squadron 
of small 40-foot torpedo-carrying hydroplanes (coastal 
motor boats) on the Belgian coast, active service of the 
most arduous kind. 

“ On this substratum of fact has been built the abomin- 
able legend that I was a seciet service spy, and intelli- 
gence ofliccr in that sense, and that it was in some such 
capacity that I have done my political work in Ireland. 

“ I should add that for some months in 1917-1918 I 
was employed on the Secretariat of the Irish Convention, 
working specially for the group advocating a Dominion 
scheme, that being then the last faint chance of cfl’ecting 
a constitutional settlement. The collapse of the whole 
convention tind the attempt to enforce conscription con- 
vinced me that Home Rule was dead and that a revolution 
was inevitable and necessary, and I only waited until the 
end of the war when I should have faithfully fulfilled my 
contract with the British to join in the movement myself. 

“ With the formal establishment of the Repuljlic in 

297 



Remembering Sion 

1919, it liccanic necessary for people like myself, of mixed 
birth, to choose our eilizeuship once and for all. I chose 
that of the Irish Hepublic, like hundreds of other ex- 
soldiers, on my release from the British Army (all con- 
nection with it bein[> severed). 1 threw ntyself into the 
work for the llepuhliean movetnent, and at the end of a 
year took up permanent residence with my wife and 
family in Dublin. 

“ My first definite mission was to visit our Paris envoys, 
S. T. O’Ceallaigh and Cavan Duffy, in the summer of 
1919, in order to lu‘I[) them with Press and other work, 
hearing' with me the written authorisation of Arthur 
Griflith, the acting-Prcsident. My next important job 
Wits to act, on the nomination of Michael Collins, Finance 
Minister, as ottc of the five original directors of the 
National Land Bank, founded by Robert Barton, Minister 
of Agricultttrc, in January 1920, with ca[)ital secretly 
supplied from Republican funds, and involving; many 
delicate responsibilities. 

“ Later in the same year 1 was appoittied Chtiirman of 
the Rejtubliean jitstices of Rathmiiie.s and Pembroke. 
In these and in a host of other confidential tnatters 1 was 
met from the first with a generous trust atid confidence 
which 1 shall never forget. My achievement wtt.s small 
and my sacrifice nothing cottipared with the aeliievements 
and sacrifices of those who made the Republic and up- 
held it in arms against the British, hut I cait at least say 
that I ■was fiiithful to till of the many trusts reposed in me, 
nor has any suggestion ever been mtide to the contrary. 

. I took a strotig line from the first ati;ainst the 
British Dominittn scheme, and in so doing came for the 
first time in conflict with Republican colleagues and 
comrades. Until then not a shadow of a cloud had dis- 
turbed the absolute harmony of tttir relationship. For 
myself, I had passed through the Dominion phase years 
298 



RemembeTing Sion 

before, discarded it and sworn allegiance to the estab- 
lished Republic. The slow growth of moral and intel- 
lectual conviction had brought me to where I stood, and 
it was and is impossible to go back. I was bound by 
honoitr, conscience and principle to oppose the Treaty 
by speech, writing and action, and when it came to the 
disasttous point, in war. For we hold that a nation has 
no right to siu render its declared and established Inde- 
pendence, and that even a minority has a right to resist 
that surrender in arms.” 

And with a hope that soon they would be united under 
the honoured flag of the Republic, Erskine Childers went 
into the shades with Michael Collins and all the rest, with 
a crackle of machine-guns and rifles over the roofs of 
Dublin on 24tli November 1922. Like Roger Casement 
bcfoie him death in the end brought him justice in Ire- 
land. Tlie legend of Erskine Childers the Spy is buried 
in a deeper grave than himself, who learned to love 
Ireland in the Wicklow glens and sought truth on many 
waters, more free than all the Irish slaves and English 
dolts and Dublin wits and political carrion-kites in the 
Dail and Westminster who whined and canted and 
jingled and screamed their fllih. . . . Not unmourned 
he passed. Wedgewood Benn rose under Big Ben and 
spoke a brave and timely word. Stephen Gwynn told 
Ireland to remember the man Childers was and place him 
on parole and let him go. But in a civil war who could 
listen to that Childers was but a pawn killed by desper- 
ate men who had vowed they would save Ireland from 
chaos at any cost, careless of bloodstains on their names 
so long as they left behind them an Irish nation. But 
their foes behind tlie roofs of Dublin and drifting to 
defeat in the hills, hemmed in by an angry people, until 
this hour have never reached the serenity Childers found 

m 



Remembering Sion 

as he shook liancls with his heart-stricken executioners. 
In their raji,e they scrawled on the Dul)lin walls: Turn 
ovc'i* Mick (Ccdlins), make rouin for Dick (Mulcahy)j and 
Willie (Ca)sgrave) follows after T’ And to-day they 
still remain rooted in the personal feuds of the time, 
counting the hours until some gossipitig poltroon can 
pour his muck upon some other Irish grave, though it be 
illlcd by a figure as stark and noldc as Feargus in the 
ancient saga turning, late-itupellcd, with reluctant sword 
against his brothers of yesterday. 



SEVENTEEN 


A nd away from Sion for more than ten years these 
-mcmoiies seethed and faded and came to life again 
in my thoughts until I wrote The Invisible Army, and 
banished the grimmest of them, I knew Sion had fairer 
faces than the one I had drawn in my book, and that this 
middle episode with Michael Collins careering through 
terrible years like some stark figure from an old-world 
tale was in truth but the middle of a story whose begin- 
nings I had seen but whose end I knew not. Until this 
ghost was laid I never wished to see Ireland again although 
I could have listened to talk of Ireland for hours, and 
indeed once reduced two poets from Dublin to tears, by 
asking them so many questions that when I left them 
they wept bitterly and told Kelleher who reproved me : 
why overstrain the temperaments of the poets, why not 
go and look for myself? I answered that I could read 
the newspapers and listen to travellers’ tales, quite for- 
getting that once beyond the Irish coast the magic of 
Ireland fades and is lost. The politicians were still 
ranting on their platforms, and some Dubliners I met 
appalled me witlt their smugness. But when I had 
finished The Invisible Army, and translated my friend 
Louis N, Le Roux’s Life of Patrick Pearse, a nostalgia 
for Sion stirred within me. Only for Andrew it would 
probably have been stirring yet : why go to Sion when 
the life would be plagued out of me with the talk of what 
Cosgrave or de Valera said ten years before and all the 
venomous tittle-tattle and personal feuds of the Civil War 
and the smug melancholy which had produced the Censor- 

301 



K c ni crnh e r i ng S I o n 

ship? All that [ could see and hear widioul a long 
journey by train or boat. But one day Andrew came to 
London and said: “ Cioinc over. We may he a museum 
but you were in one of our glass cases once.” Then I 
made a dash for il knowing I would see Sion for Andrew 
had remiiuled me that in the worst museum there are 
mairy exhihits and one is free to look at just those one 
chooses. A tenderness moved me towards Sion even 
then for I protested to Andrew dial to call Sion a museum 
is not quite the word. 

Hardly had I hmded at Diinleary than T sal up and 
said: “ 111 ere is not much wrong with these people!” 
Dublin gleamed like a Fairy (iiiy liefore me with the 
dawn above her scjuares and domes, and her speech in 
my cars and a great wind blowing through her streets. 
She was as a jewel one coukl hold in the luind and see 
in all her facets. (Ireen llames of bronze ruse over the 
river tree-fringed and s[);umed by a new liridge or two. 
In superficial ways she had changed : she had rebuilt her- 
self from the ruins ol'the wtirs and printed flaming swords 
and shapely crosses on her stamps, and hens and wood- 
chucks and horse on her coins. But the old tide of life 
moved down from Ilarcourt Street to Drumcondra with 
O’Conneir.s Street pageant in between. Okl face,s 
emerged front the tide, old names flashed from shop 
fronts and Dublin’s chroniele began again. Beneath the 
careless talk moved the mental ferment of Dublin, and 
when I heard that Dublin was going' to the dtwil 1 ntwer 
minded that mttch for I hurl heard the same story ten and 
twenty years before, and 1 knew Dublin was herself again. 
I never slept for a week tilthough I had itnly time to see 
one of the pubs of Dublin for five minutes, hut 1 learned 
that the pubs of Dublin are till (hey were. Up in the 
Four Courts I met the Gulkin as wise and mellow as ever, 
and Jim Larkin loomed grey and gtiunt in the distance 



Remembering Sion 

listening to a learned judge giving judgment, and I saw 
four politicians in wig and gown whom the Gulkin 
assured me always sat at the same table and jested together, 
althougli by the remarks I had heard them making about 
one another I siiould have expected them to have been 
selecling some of the fine trees on the quays, rope in hand. 
Out in Rathlarnham 1 saw St. Enda’s again, and in the 
Gate Theatre I saw Peer Gynt and an audience before the 
curtain which brouglif me back to the Abbey of yore, so 
many celebrities strewed the floor and a belted earl in the 
front row shut out the view. I heard more in seven days 
than could be written down in seven years and seven 
times .seven years, and I thought how foolish it is to 
worry about Sion or write about Sion for a day there is 
worth a year trying to get tite magic of Dublin on paper. 
Grave thoughts just then nibbled behind the minds of 
llie Dubliners, but they shrugged their shoulders and, to 
quote the Gulkin, regarded their city as the fairest stage 
when all is said on their journey to Eternity. Flotsam 
and jetsam floated by in Dublin’s tide: here I saw an 
apple -woman or an artnless match-seller who had survived 
the terrible years unchanged with barely an additional 
wrinkle or grey hair. Down in a Republican newspaper 
I had a glorious argument with a namesake of mine who 
had cut the very tripes out of IViC Invisible Army, but 
gave me space with great fairness to reply. Then I went 
to see another critic who gave me the shock of my life. 
He also had put ashes on his head for the awful language 
some characters in my book had used; although I had 
heard some fine expressions, I had cjuite forgotten on the 
way down to the ancient music-hall, he had turned into 
one of the finest papers in Ireland. He looked more 
shocked al the few lyrical expressions of tenderness I let 
fall for Dublin tiian the oaths he had found for the first 
time between the covers of my book, and I really fell I 

10 % 



Rerncmhcring Sinn 

should like to take him out and make him dcunk, but that 
was a task beyond me. And, after all, he is a Cork man. 
Then T met an aticient warrior well seasoned in all the 
wars and told him that my .second critic bad been through 
all these wans with such and stich a corujtany of the 
Volunteers and had never heard certain appalling expres- 
sions, and that ancient warrior laughed so tremendously 
that all Rathgar was sirakett to the foundations. 

So I went on watching the Dublin pageant in all the 
colour and glory of her day.s and nights, knowing that 
the greatest illu.sion and vexation of the .spirit arc those 
of tlic political doctrinaires. .Sometimes, as I listen to 
the rancorous gossip of all my political friends, I think: 
“ Good Heavens! Is dial as far as you have got.^ We 
were there ten years ago.” But let all tlie half-gods of 
Sion dither, Sion is immortal, aitd as Treland ri.ses from 
the sea in the half-light, we know tho.se who leave her 
f<u' her good, that she is .separaiecl indeed from England 
hy seas attd laws and spirit and history. And as wc 
turn again to leave the Bay and liprhl on all the roofs of 
El JDorado wo murmur as of old, albeit with a rapture 
sorrow-.scarred : 


Not dark^ as t/tc hearts hear^ 
h'ut ensturred evef/a^tinidyjair^ 
On the diirkncsSy 0 Banka /